Theme of the week: Big Joe Williams’ Baby Please Don’t Go
No, we’re still on the theme. Really. I’ll let Denise Sullivan from Crawdaddy.com explain (in a wholly unauthorized quote)…
Following his youth in an Ypsilanti, Michigan trailer park as Jim Osterberg, and after time done in his pre-Stooges bands, the Iguanas and the Prime Movers (noted as such for anyone who missed the memo), Iggy stole away to Chicago to be nearer the blues and to study the nightlife there. I Wanna Be Your Dog is a version of a blues song thanks to its trick of a thrice repeated line and its overall feeling, though that still doesn’t explain the dog, does it?
The likely source of the line is Baby Please Don’t Go, a blues song originally recorded by Big Joe Williams in 1935 (Baby please don’t go down to New Orleans / I love you so / Baby please don’t go) and known to rock fans as the A-side of the 1965 single by Van Morrison and Them (the B-side was Gloria). Both versions contain the line: ‘Fore I be your dog / Git you way down here / Make you walk the log / Baby please don’t go (sometimes for I can be heard like wanna). Williams’ song was a variation on Don’t You Leave Me Here, the roots of which are planted in Alabama Bound, and Elder Green. According to scholar Paul Oliver in his book Songsters and Saints, the songs circulated as early as 1912, parts of them date back to 1908, and Elder Green was recorded by Charley Patton in 1930. But it was Williams’ recording of Baby Please Don’t Go that elevated into the realm of musical standard: Working R&B bands knew it and eventually all the big bluesmen got around to recording it in the ’50s and ’60s, from Big Bill Broonzy, Muddy Waters, and Bukka White to Lightnin’ Hopkins, Mississippi Fred McDowell, John Lee Hooker, and Brownie McGhee. A 1962 version of the song by Bob Dylan, previously available only as a bootleg, surfaced officially a few years ago.
Okay, so maybe you’re not hearing it. Maybe it’s just my ear. It’s still a rockin’ song, so go forth and enjoy I Wanna Be Your Dog, by The Stooges. And kill some time at Crawdaddy.com while you’re at it, too.