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SAVOY 810; JULY 1951



In a recording career that is about to celebrate just its second anniversary, Billy Wright has cut a number of truly classic sides already and has scored a handful of Top Ten hits nationally and even more regional hits on top of that.

He’s a star in other words, a dynamic singer, a good songwriter, a flamboyant showman and one of rock’s most distinctive artists.

Yet in spite of his success it wasn’t until now that the music community as a whole seemed to collectively sit up and take notice because suddenly this good, but somewhat unlikely song, became the one that a bunch of other artists all hopped on board for cover versions leaving you to wonder… why this one?


Don’t You Remember Me?
The story of the song is a tangled one and even today, seventy-one years later, the truth of its origins are kinda muddled.

What almost certainly ISN’T true is the song originating with The John Godfrey Trio who released this on tiny Hilltop Records out of Cincinnati in the summer of 1951 and which was immediately picked up on by Chess in Chicago who put out the same recording of the group in August complete with a story of how a test pressing was leaked to a Cincinnati disc jockey who played it on the air and as a result the demand for it was so great that Chess had to rush-release it.

All bullshit.

How do we know this? Because Billy Wright cut Heh Little Girl on May 1st, more than two full months before Godfrey’s group recorded theirs… after Wright’s was released in July.

As for the name usually credited as songwriter – Robert Hill – he was the thief who owned Hilltop Records and attached his name to the credits even though my guess is he couldn’t sing this song to you if you stopped him on the street and fed him the first line a week after he put his name to it. The song wasn’t even copywritten until 1965 – under his name but with Arc Publishing which was owned by Leonard Chess who was obviously tying up some loose ends in an effort to further pad his wallet.

Criminals, one and all, though truthfully there’s probably nobody involved with this song whose hands are completely clean.

We say this because the Savoy release lists Billy Wright as composer, which is much more believable but not a sure thing either, as they’d listed him as songwriters for tunes he lifted from records two and three years old in the past… which is SORTA what he does here as well.

Back in 1948 Paul Gayten released Hey Little Girl, a different song than this one technically speaking but similar enough to realize where Wright’s idea came from – same rhythm, same choppy vocal style, same theme even but Wright’s injected new lyrics and a faster, more streamlined arrangement. Gayten’s had come out while he was still on DeLuxe and now Syd Nathan – seeing the stir caused by this new song – re-released that which the trade papers played up as the same tune. Not content with that bit of subterfuge Professor Longhair soon cut a version of THAT song which was credited to him under his real name of Roy Byrd.

So for those not keeping score, the song today was based on an original idea by Gayten, changed enough by Wright to deserve some compositional credit probably, and then stolen by half the world’s population within a three month period.

Just another normal turn of events in the wild west of the record industry.


Everything’ll Be Alright In The Mornin’
Okay… the record.

This is a GOOD song for sure, but is it really one that was deserving of a bunch of cover versions including by some bonafide rockers?

No, not especially.

What makes it strange that it attracted so much attention is that Wright’s version hadn’t landed on any charts yet when others began to jump on it, which is usually what happens, and so when Chess picked up the Hilltop release for national distribution that move caught people’s attention and it spiraled out of control.

The first cover by Godfrey’s group is not really rock so we’re not reviewing it, though with its weird lounge vibe it’s definitely listenable, and while we don’t want to spoil the suspense for later renditions by The Larks or The Treniers, both of which we WILL cover, we need to say that Wright succeeds with this largely because his voice is the best among all of the performers and that’s its most memorable feature by far.

Right away though, even before he opens his mouth, you see that his Hey Little Girl is the most aggressive musically with piano and saxes opening things up before a squawking trumpet barges in – briefly thank goodness – after which Billy takes over, riding the rhythm like a stallion. His voice is so clear and strong that it’s hard to even notice anything else as it practically pierces the speaker cones. That’s a good thing because it tends to distract you from the fact that this – like the Gayten song on which it draws its DNA from – is nothing but a guy relentlessly hitting on a hot girl.

Though Wright was openly gay he’s easily the most convincing in expressing his desires, barely able to contain himself, shouting up a storm which seems to fuel the musicians in a way that the other versions don’t come close to matching.

The arrangement helps to carry it beyond the simplistic and repetitive lyrics as it switches between a swinging strut behind the verses and a stomping heavy beat during the chorus, drums up front and horns riffing behind it. The piano break is energetic but crude, although by that point you know this is hardly aspiring to be more than a rave up which probably went down great in person where you could work off energy on the dance floor.

As a record though… well that’s another matter. It’s really more of a performance than a proper song, the musical equivalent of someone capturing a wolverine in a cage. The other songs were more like housecats which sort of makes you wonder why they covered it in the first place if they were going to try and tame it like they do.


Think About Your Used To Be
Surprisingly this was the last national hit for Wright, though he remained a consistent seller after this, and it’s the only one of his four Top Ten entries that is uptempo and not structured like a dramatic stage play set to music.

That’s good for his musical legacy, as often people nowadays tend to stick to the hits when perusing the past, and Heh Little Girl (the only version spelled that way, though it was surely by mistake)- definitely makes an impression with his explosive delivery and shows what kind of vocal power he possessed.

But there were better – and more idiosyncratic – songs in his catalog that are more representative of his style and with the confusion over this one’s source material it may may be best for the newcomers to approach this song only after absorbing his best ballads… not to mention after also hearing the various takes on this song by other artists… because Billy Wright unleashed is a hard act to follow.

If you’re tracing the history of rock chronologically however, this’ll be the one that kicks off a run of a couple of months in which you won’t be able to escape the song, so since that’s what we’re doing around here maybe it IS better that you have this committed to memory before delving into the others so you can try and figure our why any of them thought they could trade punches with someone hitting this hard.


(Visit the Artist page of Billy Wright for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)

Spontaneous Lunacy has reviewed other versions of this song you may be interested in:
Paul Gayten (January, 1948)
The Larks (August, 1951)