First off,LOL @ the crazy hippie host lady… I really cannot tell if she is being sincere or not with all that drive-in movie talk, but she is kind of weirding me out.
“Ramblin’ Rose” is the first song on the first MC5 album, Kick Out The Jams, which is a live LP. It’s sung by guitar player Wayne Kramer, in the R&B tradition of the band playing a few numbers before the lead singer takes the stage. I always thought it was a great song, although his falsetto can sound downright bizarre at times.
As far as I knew, the song was a cover of a Ted Taylor tune:
Like the MC5, the Taylor version also features falsetto vocals, albeit done a bit more professionally. It came out in 1965 on the Okeh label, right around when the MC5 started playing together. It’s a stellar 60’s R&B tune, no two ways about it.
But, it turns out, it is NOT the original version of the song, which I found out yesterday. The original version is by Jerry Lee Lewis, and was released on Sun Records in January 1962.
The Lewis version is not that different from the Taylor version, both are mid-tempo R&B with horns (although the horns are much more prominent in Taylor’s). Jerry Lee also proves that the song may actually sound better when sung in someone’s natural register, as I have never actually heard the song sung that way before! Also, I cannot overstate how much swagger Jerry Lee Lewis has. Truly amazing.
Interestingly enough, the producer on the Ted Taylor version is Nashville veteran Billy Sherrill. Sherrill started engineering at Sun Studios in 1961 before moving to Epic Records (the company that owned Okeh) around 1963. I wonder if he worked on the original version of Ramblin’ Rose, as well as on Taylor’s version? That would explain why he chose to cover (or even knew of) a b-side of a non-hit single that came out three years previous.
I am kind of embarrassed that I had never heard the original version before yesterday, as I consider myself a bit of a Jerry Lee Lewis fan. I even buy budget truckstop pressings and weird European compilation records where he is singing “My Bonnie” and “The Marine Hymn” and he has his Iago beard on the cover. Jerry Lee stayed at Sun Records for over 7 years, far longer than any of his peers (Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich), so the amount of material he recorded there is staggering (enough to fill 12 CDs and it isn’t one of those Stooges things with 27 takes of each song either). So, the fact that this song got around me isn’t that amazing, and if anything it just proves the depth and quality of the man’s catalog. Apparently, “Ramblin’ Rose” IS available on one of those budget truckstop compilations of his Sun stuff, so I guess I haven’t been looking hard enough.
To send this out, here’s a pretty amazing clip of Jerry Lee Lewis from the early 70’s, rocking far harder than the MC5: