See See Rider

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"See See Rider Blues"
Single by Ma Rainey
A-side"Jealous Hearted Blues"
Released1924 (1924)–1925
Format10-inch 78 rpm record
RecordedOctober 16, 1924
LabelParamount (no. 12252)
Songwriter(s)Ma Rainey, Lena Arant[1]
Ma Rainey singles chronology
"Booze and Blues"
"See See Rider Blues"
"Cell Bound Blues"

"See See Rider", also known as "C.C. Rider", "See See Rider Blues" or "Easy Rider", is a popular American 12-bar blues[2] song, originally recorded by Gertrude "Ma" Rainey in 1924. The song uses mostly traditional blues lyrics to tell the story of an unfaithful lover, commonly called an easy rider: "See see rider, see what you have done," making a play on the word see and the sound of easy.


Ma Rainey's recording, "See See Rider Blues", was a popular song in 1925. Numerous musicians later recorded their own versions, including Big Bill Broonzy, Mississippi John Hurt, Lead Belly, Lightnin' Hopkins, and Peggy Lee. Broonzy claimed that "when he was about 9 or 10—that is, around 1908, in the Delta (Jefferson County, Arkansas)—he learned to play the blues from an itinerant songster named "See See Rider", "a former slave, who played a one-string fiddle ... one of the first singers of what would later be called the blues."[3]

In 1943, a version by Wee Bea Booze reached number one on Billboard magazine's "Harlem Hit Parade," a precursor of the rhythm and blues chart. Some blues critics consider this to be the definitive version of the song.[4] A doo-wop version was recorded by Sonny Til and the Orioles in 1952. Later rocked-up hit versions were recorded by Chuck Willis (as "C.C. Rider," a number one R&B hit and a number 12 pop hit in 1957) and LaVern Baker (number nine R&B and number 34 pop in 1963). Ella Fitzgerald recorded the song for her album These Are the Blues (1963) with Wild Bill Davis on organ and Ray Brown on bass.

Other popular performances were recorded by Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels (as part of the medley "Jenny Take a Ride!", number 10 US pop in 1965) and the Animals (number 10 US pop in 1966). The Animals' version (featuring keyboard accompaniment by Dave Rowberry)[5] also reached number one on the Canadian RPM chart and number eight in Australia. The arrangement of the song was credited to Rowberry.[6] However, it resembles Joe Tex's rendition, which first appeared on his 1965 album The New Boss.

In his later years, Elvis Presley, having befriended Wayne Cochran in Las Vegas and admired his band's performing of the song, regularly opened his performances with the song,[7] as in the performance captured on his 1970 album On Stage and in his television specials Aloha from Hawaii via Satellite and Elvis In Concert. Presley's version opened with a rolling drum riff by drummer Ronnie Tutt followed by the band's entrance and Presley's famous brass melody.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band long had "C.C. Rider" as part of their "Detroit Medley" encore, which achieved significant publicity on the 1980 live album No Nukes. At the 1972 Sunbury festival in Victoria, Australia, Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs played a heavy blues-rock version as a part of their late night set. This was released on the LP Aztecs Live at Sunbury. American R&B and boogie-woogie pianist and singer Little Willie Littlefield recorded a version for his 1983 album I'm in the Mood.

Other renditions were recorded by the Youngbloods, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, the Who, the Everly Brothers, the Kingsmen, Charlie Rich, Ian & Sylvia, Julie London, Janis Joplin, Leon Thomas, Cher, Snooks Eaglin, John Fahey, Old Crow Medicine Show, Caroline Herring, Drake Bell, Freda Payne, Chris Clark, Bobby Powell, and Jimmy Smith.

The Grateful Dead's setlist entry "C.C. Rider" refers to the Grateful Dead's version of "C.C. Rider", sung by Bob Weir, not to be confused with the Dead's often-played "China Rider" sequence (China Cat Sunflower/I Know You Rider)[8]

Recognition and influence[edit]

In 2004, the original Ma Rainey recording received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award. Film director Martin Scorsese credited the song with stimulating his interest in music. He commented:

One day, around 1958, I remember hearing something that was unlike anything I'd ever heard before ... The music was demanding, "Listen to me!" ... The song was called "See See Rider," which I already knew from the Chuck Willis cover version. The name of the singer was Lead Belly ... I found an old Folkways record by Lead Belly ... And I listened to it obsessively. Lead Belly's music opened something up for me. If I could have played guitar, really played it, I never would have become a filmmaker.[9]

The Blues Foundation inducted "See See Rider" in 2018 into the Blues Hall of Fame as a "classic of blues recording".[10] In addition to hit singles, it notes the song's popularity among "blues, soul, jazz, pop, country, and rock performers."[10]

Origins of the term[edit]

The term see see rider is usually taken as synonymous with easy rider. In dirty blues songs it often refers to a woman who had liberal sexual views, had been married more than once, or was skilled at sex. Although Ma Rainey's version seems to refer to "See See Rider" as a man, one theory is that the term refers to a prostitute and in the lyric "You made me love you, now your man done come," "your man" refers to the woman's pimp. So, rather than being directed to a male "easy rider," the song is in fact an admonition to a prostitute to give up her evil ways.[11][12]

There are further theories:

  • Easy rider was sometimes used to refer to the partner of a hypersexual woman who therefore does not have to work or pay for sex.[11][12]
  • Another theory is that the term easy rider sometimes originally referred to the guitar hung across the back of a travelling blues singer.[13]
  • Other sources indicate that C.C. Rider refers to either early "church circuit" traveling preachers who did not have established churches or "county circuit" riders who were attorneys following a circuit judge.[14][15]
  • Big Bill Broonzy states, on his album Big Bill Broonzy (recorded in Baarn, the Netherlands, early 1956 and released late 1956), that the first time he heard that song was by a man who "loved to be on the water, and that's why he wrote this title, and that's the title of the song: it's Sea Sea Rider".[16]
  • Big Bill Broonzy also states, in a conversation about his youth with Bill Randle on his album The Bill Broonzy Story (recorded on July, 12, 1957), that See See Rider was a blues singer (AVID Roots, Classic Box Set, AMSC1159) before playing the tune.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lovie Austin is listed as the songwriter on the original Paramount single label
  2. ^ Some versions are in an "expanded", sixteen-bar blues form; see the review of Elijah Wald (2005), Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues, Amistad, ISBN 0-06-052423-5, on Google group
  3. ^ House, Roger (4 June 2018). "Blue Smoke: The Recorded Journey of Big Bill Broonzy". LSU Press. p. 19. Retrieved 4 June 2018 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ "Wee Bea Booze - Biography & History - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  5. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 38, The Rubberization of Soul: The Great Pop Music Renaissance. [Part 4]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries.
  6. ^ "Google Image Result". Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  7. ^ "Elvis Presley in Concert". Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  8. ^ "12-10-89 Great Western Forum, Inglewood, California", Deadbase, Dec 10, 1989
  9. ^ "The Blues . Feel Like Going Home . Interview - PBS". Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  10. ^ a b Blues Foundation (March 6, 2018). "2018 Hall of Fame Inductees: "See See Rider Blues" – Ma Rainey (Paramount, 1924)". The Blues Foundation. Retrieved March 7, 2018.
  11. ^ a b "easy, a. and adv.", Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.), Oxford University Press, 1989, c. easy rider (U.S. slang): (a) a sexually satisfying lover (see also quot. 1926); (b) a guitar.
    1912–13 W. C. HANDY Memphis Blues, Mr. Crump don't 'low no easy riders here. 1926 in R. de Toledano Frontiers Jazz (1947) iii. 37 ‘Rider’, ‘easy rider’, which term means both lover and (not either, or) procurer... Fidelity to his woman is expected of the easy rider. 1927 Jrnl. Abnormal & Social Psychol. XXII. 16 ‘Easy rider’. This apt expression is used to describe a man whose movements in coitus are easy and satisfying. It is frequently met both in Negro folk songs and in formal songs. ‘I wonder where my easy rider's gone’, is a sort of by-word with Southern negroes. 1949 R. BLESH Shining Trumpets vi. 128 In rural Negro parlance...easy rider meant the guitar...carried suspended by its cord. In the double meaning of Negro imagery, the femininely formed guitar...typifies also a woman companion. In Negro ‘city talk’, the term easy rider has come to mean either a sexually satisfying woman or a male lover who lives off a woman's earnings. 1958 P. OLIVER in P. Gammond Decca Bk. Jazz i. 24 For the blues singer, the most valuable instrument was the guitar,...and, as his ‘easy rider’, could be slung across his back when he wished to travel.
  12. ^ a b Lighter, J.E. (1994), Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang A-G, I, p. 375, ISBN 0-394-54427-7, n Black E. 1. a parasitical man usu. without a steady job who lives by gambling or sponging, (speicif.) a man who is supported by a woman, esp. a prostitute. [...] 2.a. a sexually satisfying lover. [...] b. a young woman who is sexually promiscious or easily seduced. Also easy ride. [...] c.a guitar [...] 4. a person who is not easily ruffled or provoked
  13. ^ Ayto, John, "The Arts, Entertainment, and the Media. 3. Music & Dance", The Oxford Dictionary of Slang, Oxford University Press, p. 351, ISBN 0-19-863157-X, easy rider (1949) Applied to a guitar, probably from a guitar's portability, but compare earlier sense, sexually satisfying lover, perhaps suggesting a link between the guitar's curved outlines and those of a voluptuous woman.
  14. ^ "Think you are soul folk, baby?", Jet, 31 (18), pp. 47, 55, Feb 9, 1967, ISSN 0021-5996, 7. In "C.C. Rider," what does "C.C." stand for? [...] (c) Country Circuit, preacher an old time rambler.
  15. ^ Ben Jaffe, Creative Director of Preservation Hall, Preservation Hall Jazz Band 50th Anniversary Collection liner notes
  16. ^ Big Bill Broonzy, 1956, The first time I hear this song was by a guy [...], he was a Negro, I'm sure [...]. He was [...] the first guy that would give me an idea of buying some box and making me a fiddle. And this guy, the first song I heard him playing in my life, [...] that was 1908. And he told me that he learnt this song because he was a rouster, on a boat. And he loved to be on the water, and that's why he wrote this title, and that's the title of the song: it's Sea Sea Rider.