Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Mustang Sally

Written and first recorded by “Sir” Mack Rice (R&B #15 1965).
Other hit versions by Wilson Pickett (US #23/R&B #6/UK #28 1967 |UK #62 1987), The Commitments (UK #63 1991).

From the wiki: “According to music historian Tom Shannon the song started as a joke. Mack Rice wrote a song called ‘Mustang Mama’ after visiting his friend, the actress/singer Della Reese, in New York City. Reese told him that she was thinking about buying her drummer a new Lincoln for his birthday, which Rice, being from Detroit, thought was a great idea. When Rice mentioned this to Shields, the drummer replied, ‘I don’t want a Lincoln, I want a Mustang.’

“As Rice then explains, on the 2007 Rhythm & Blues Cruise, he had never heard of a Mustang before, but Shields filled him in. Rice couldn’t believe Shields wanted such a small car instead of a big ol’ Lincoln. When he returned to Detroit, Rice started writing the song, with the chorus ‘Ride, Sally, ride.’ Rice’s publisher knew Aretha Franklin well, and brought Rice by her house for a visit; he sang some of the song for her; Franklin suggested he change the title to ‘Mustang Sally’ to better suit the chorus.

“Wilson Pickett came across the song when Rice was booked to play at The Apollo Theater and the headliner, Clyde McPhatter, didn’t show. Rice called his old bandmate Pickett who performed in McPhatter’s place. When Pickett heard Rice perform ‘Mustang Sally’, he decided to record it himself.

“According to Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 500 Songs: ‘[Pickett’s] ‘Mustang Sally’ nearly ended up on the studio floor – literally. After Pickett finished his final take at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, the tape suddenly flew off the reel and broke into pieces. But the session engineer, the legendary Tom Dowd, calmly cleared the room and told everyone to come back in half an hour. Dowd pieced the tape back together and saved what became one of the funkiest soul anthems of the ’60s.’

“Spooner Oldham, one of the top Muscle Shoals musicians, played the keyboard on Pickett recording — but he had to create the part. Oldham remembers: ‘I was sitting on a stool, and we listened to a demo of Sir Mack Rice who wrote the song, and the first thing I noticed was there was no keyboard on that record. But I’m here, I want the job – what am I going to do that will work within that song? And I just closed eyes for a second, daydreaming, and said, ‘I wonder what it would sound like if I pretended I was a Harley Davidson motorcycle and was driving through the studio, what would that sound like?’ There’s a little pause in that record where there’s not much going on, and I do rorp-rorp-rorp kind of revving engine thing. And [producer] Jerry Wexler liked it, because he later tried to get me to do it again when I was in New York. Of course, I didn’t, it was specific for that song.’

“Rice’s version made it to #15 on the U.S. R&B charts in 1965. Pickett’s version climbed to #6 on the R&B charts and #23 on the Pop charts in 1966, #4 in Canada, and #28 in the UK Singles Chart on its original release (and #62, when it was re-released in 1987).

“In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Wilson Pickett’s recording of the song at #434 on a list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The song dropped seven spots to #441, when the magazine published its 2010 update of the list.

“The song featured prominently in the 1991 film The Commitments and appears on the film’s soundtrack album, as sung by Andrew Strong. It was released as a single from the album and reached #63 in the UK Singles Chart.”

Wilson Pickett, “Mustang Sally” (1967):

The Commitments, “Mustang Sally” (1991):

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