The Wise One
"I Got The Blues For You" (Collins)
Al Collins & Orch, Ace, 1955
"I'm Wise" (E. Bocage)
Eddie Bo, Apollo, 1956
Here we have two songs that were the basis for one of Little Richard’s rock ‘n roll classics, “Slippin’ And Slidin’ (Peepin’ And Hidin’)”, recorded in February, 1956, at J&M Studios in New Orleans. I had thought about posting them before and never got around to it, until Larry Grogan at Funky 16 Corners put up Eddie Bo’s 1962 Ric remake of “I’m Wise” (called “Baby, I’m Wise”), thinking it was the original. After several of us commenters pointed out the existence of the earlier records, I decided to go ahead and let you hear the sources that Little Richard “borrowed” from so successfully. I would hope you are familiar with Richard Penniman’s groundbreaking, highly influential contributions to popular music history; but, if not, you need to get a decent compilation of his Specialty sides, many of which were cut in New Orleans, using the cream of the city’s session players, and hear them for yourself. There are many (including Mr. Penniman himself) who think that rock ‘n roll began in earnest right there.
The first single released on legendary Ace Records in New Orleans in 1955, “I Got The Blues For You” didn’t get any airplay because Al Collins’ lyrics about a hot chick he sees in a bar (“Baby with the big box, tell me where your legs stop” or is that “tell me where’s your next stop”, or both?) were too raunchy for radio (!). It had a laid back blues-rumba flavored drum groove countered by somewhat frenetic piano work by none other than Edwin Bocage (a/k/a Spider Bocage, Little Bo, or, most famously, Eddie Bo).
As Little Bo, Bocage performed “So Glad” for the second Ace release. After that single went nowhere, he signed with the Apollo label and recorded “I’m Wise” in 1955, using the structure of “I’ve Got The Blues For You” with more of a rock ‘n roll feel and new lyrics he wrote (about a double dealing woman) that he sang like a hipster rather than a rocker. Note Bo’s “out” piano solo; an early sign of things to come for his style. Recorded at Cosimo Matassa’s studio, where Little Richard was also cutting his history-making hits, Bo’s song was first heard by Penniman either there or on the radio, as it became a regional hit. Little Richard and Specialty producer Bumps Blackwell didn’t even change the lyrics or music much in lifting it. What they did to make it irresistible was have those great HOTG studio men (like Earl Palmer on drums and Lee Allen on sax) kick up the groove and turn on the heat to reinforce Richard’s powerful vocal attack and impassioned piano pounding. Those key elements turned “Slippin’ And Slidin’ b/w “Long Tall Sally” into a double sided #1 R&B single in short order, crossing over onto the Pop chart at #6.
Although, as evidenced in this label shot, early issues of “Slippin’ And Slidin’” did not acknowledge Bocage or Collins, they later got, at least, shared songwriting credits with Penniman, Blackwell, and the unknown J. Smith (possibly a Johnny Vincent alias). Really, though, Collins’ contribution is merely a footnote to the story, as it was Eddie Bo who supplied the lyrics and direction to the song that Penniman picked up and ran with. For Collins, his more significant credit was another song he wrote, “Lucille”, which Little Richard recorded to excellent effect in July of 1956.
The back story of “Slippin’ And Slidin’” doesn’t make the song any less of a classic. Musicians and songwriters often take from each other; but we should acknowledge, when we can, those shoulders the famous sometimes stand on to get to the top.
The Gifted Lifter