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KING 4383; JULY 1950



Certain records are touchstones of their era… not necessarily the biggest hits, but the ones which work their way into the fabric of the times.

One of the easiest ways to recognize this is by seeing other artists explicitly reference those songs in their own work. Sometimes it’s done rather subtly, other times – like here – it’s done pretty explicitly, making absolutely no secret of its intent.

Though people often chalk this kind of thing up as being opportunistic and even exploitative by trying to lure in fans of the original song that’s being cited (which does happen of course), in a lot of cases it’s got more admirable motives.

By recycling these shared touchstones the music becomes self-sustaining, giving the artists and the community that gravitates towards it a shared language and a sense of belonging that helps to perpetuate the movement itself.

Weighty thoughts for a three minute rock record, I know… then again, the other reason records like this work is because they just sound damn good when they’re done right.


Tell Everybody What It’s All About
The entire point of this record was of course to capitalize on Stick McGhee’s huge hit Drinkin’ Wine-Spo-Dee-O-Dee which was already a year old by the time Moore cut this song in March 1950 (actually the original McGhee take on that was even older than March of 1949, but let’s not complicate things further).

Since that time there’d been multiple cover records of that song by Big John Greer and then King Records’ own resident superstar Wynonie Harris, which was a Top Ten hit in its own right.

McGhee himself had referenced it on later singles, including one we just covered, Let’s Do It, showing that the formula was a long way from running dry just yet.

The decision therefore to have Wild Bill Moore cut a song that so blatantly advertised itself as an illegitimate offspring of that initial smash was pretty sound in theory when looking at it from a purely commercial standpoint, but the real question – as always – is just what was left to draw from that well after so long that would be appealing enough on its own to justify it musically.

The answer, somewhat surprisingly, was “plenty”.


Sing And Shout
When discussing songs which drew their entire inspiration from another record this ranks as one of the better ones we’ve encountered to date, primarily because it’s smart enough to limit the use of those origins to merely a vocal hook, not a melodic or structural one.

Of course it also helps that the words themselves mean absolutely nothing which allow them to be amenable to virtually any purpose in the song, provided of course they’re delivered with the proper lusty enthusiasm to connect it to the attitude shown in McGhee’s record. (We’ll sidestep the implications of those words being a phonetic substitute for “motherfucker” originally, but if you sub that phrase in here it DOES give this song a rather subversive kick, wouldn’t you agree?).

Regardless of what any dictionary claims they mean, the purpose is clear by the way in which the band shouts this phrase each time through… it’s serving as a call to arms in the midst of a raucous party, where inhibitions have been shed upon entering and the only thing that matters is having a good time.

The lyrics – of which there are far more than you’d expect from someone who generally cuts instrumentals – back this position up emphatically, as Moore’s rough-edged but surprisingly solid vocals continually point out the prevailing attitude by first describing the proper mindset all of the revelers must have to enjoy the festivities, then gives a loose breakdown of the activities taking place on the floor before capping it off by celebrating the spirit that seems to flow from the pores of those who have made this place their home.

Though none of the lines are all that surprising and there’s a lack of colorful details when it comes to describing the individuals at this bash, something which might have given it more character had they chose to go in that direction, Hey Spo-Dee-O-Dee definitely does not suffer much from their absence, in fact, it’s probably even more relatable because of its generic nature… both at the time and in the years since.

This is a snapshot of a state of mind as much as it is a specific time and place and for those of you who’ve lost your own mind at countless parties over the years you recognize the atmosphere as soon as this record is cued up. If there was any doubts as to its authenticity the full-throttled enthusiasm of all of the participants, from Moore’s eager instructions to the band’s wild-eyed responses, would put such questions to bed.

We Rock Like This!
Of course just having the appropriate lyrics and the vocal commitment to match is only half the battle, maybe even less than half when we’re talking rock ‘n’ roll, and to make sure this fully delivers on its promise they all need to pull their weight on their primary roles here, which is delivering a musical explosion to match the singing.

The band is a strange mix of individuals, all highly talented but many of whom have little experience with rock, or only sporadic sightings in rock settings, yet they make clear right away that they have absolutely no trouble grasping the requirements of the genre.

The great Milt Buckner has showed up on a handful of rock tracks already and though he’d never become a full-time employee of this firm, the quirky, bald, bespectacled genre-hopper definitely knows how to lock down the track, hammering away on the keys at the outset to set the mood as the hand-claps behind him establish the rhythmic groove.

Because Buckner’s piano is the only prominent instrument during the vocal sections – the bass and drums just contributing modestly in the background – there’s more responsibility on him than might be recommended but he never falters, giving Hey Spo-Dee-O-Dee a propulsive feel and if his later solo spot, replete with cries of encouragement from the others, is slightly undistinguished, it’s only because the main instrumental star, Moore himself, has just rendered anything that follows to be underwhelming by comparison with a sax break that gives a pretty fair indication of how he got his “Wild Bill” nickname.

Moore’s solo starts just before the one minute mark, somewhat restrained at first but quickly picking up steam as he blows with increasing power and verve. When the other horns – Paul Quinchette on the other tenor with Bill Graham’s baritone and Joe Hunt’s trumpet – joining in with a countering riff midway through, it acts like the fuse that sets Moore’s lead off.

The horns are now just creating a drunken racket, Moore weaving all over the road with a smile on his face as the others try and keep him from toppling over. It doesn’t quite get explosive enough to send this over the moon, but that’s okay because when they start singing again we find that’s where the real rocket-boosters are located, as they get even wilder than the instrumental break.

All of it swirls together in a frenzied outpouring of scorching sounds and an insolent attitude… basically the ingredients for every worthwhile party you’ve ever been to, not to mention forming the blueprint of rock ‘n’ roll itself.


Just As Loud As You Please
It can be surprisingly difficult at times to make records with the express purpose of replicating a disorderly live feel when confined to the sterile environment of a recording studio where you need to stick closely to the tightly structured arrangement necessary for a three minute single.

It’s also tricky to get the participants to lose their inhibitions enough to not appear self-conscious when trying to act as if they’ve been on an eight hour bender and are surrounded by fellow drunken louts whooping it up when in truth the only other people in the room are a stuffy engineer and a middle-aged producer in suit and tie who’s scowling every time he looks at the clock and sees the allotted session time slipping away.

Lastly, it’s never a sure thing to entrust musicians with the task of carrying a song by using their voices just as much as their instruments… yet on Hey Spo-Dee-O-Dee they manged to go three for three in those areas.

Though it may have been initially conceived as a loose tie-in with somebody else’s record by virtue of its title, Wild Bill Moore and company manage to pull off something noteworthy on their own and when he repeatedly declares “everybody here’s gonna have a ball”, it’s not just hyperbole…

These guys really mean it.


(Visit the Artist page of Wild Bill Moore for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)