First recorded by The Sunset Four Jubilee Singers (1925).
Also recorded by Birmingham Jubilee Singers (1930), Odetta (1954), Johnny Griffin & the Big Soul Band (1960), Graham Bond Organisation (1965).
Hit versions by Ramsey Lewis (US #19/R&B #3/UK #31 1966), Herb Alpert (US #37/MOR #5 1967).
Melodic refrain used (in “Little Walter”) by Tony! Toni! Toné! (US #47/R&B #1 1988).
From the wiki: “‘Wade in the Water’ is the name of a Negro Spiritual first published in New Jubilee Songs as Sung by the Fisk Jubilee Singers (1901). It is associated with the songs of the Underground Railroad, and the verses reflect the Israelites’ escape out of Egypt as found in the Book of Exodus. Some sources claim that songs such as ‘Wade in the Water’ contained explicit instructions to fugitive slaves on how to avoid capture. (This particular song allegedly recommends leaving dry land and taking to the water as a strategy to throw pursuing bloodhounds off one’s trail.) The first known recording was made in 1925 by The Sunset Four Jubilee Singers.
“Other early recordings were published by the Birmingham Jubilee Singers (1930), and Odetta (1954). A 1960 instrumental recording by Johnny Griffin & the Big Soul Band is thought to have inspired both the Graham Bond and Ramsey Lewis recordings.
“‘Wade in the Water’ was included on the debut album by the UK Blues band, The Graham Bond Organisation, whose membership included future Cream musicians, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce. (Melody Maker magazine’s Chris Welch has suggested the album, The Sound of ’65, ‘may have been the greatest album of the ‘Sixties … one of the most exciting and influential of its time.'”)
“The song became a popular US instrumental hit in 1966 for the Ramsey Lewis Trio, which prompted other instrumental recordings to follow including Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass (1967).
“In the late 1980’s, the melody would be adapted by Tony! Toni! Toné! for their hit ‘Little Walter’.”
Birmingham Jubilee Singers, “Wade in the Water” (1930):
Odetta, “Wade in the Water” (1954):
Johnny Griffin & the Big Soul Band, “Wade in the Water” (1960):
Graham Bond Organisation, “Wade in the Water” (1965):
Ramsey Lewis, “Wade in the Water” (1966):
Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, “Wade in the Water” (1967):
Tony! Toni! Toné!, “Little Walter” (1988):