Friday, October 28, 2011

Soldier Theory

C.C.Rider. Everyone from Leadbelly to the Grateful Dead has performed "C.C. Rider," but the question remains: Who was C.C. Rider?
    The song is listed as "traditional," meaning no one knows who wrote it. During the Civil War, C.C. stood for Cavalry Corporal. Riding is probably the most common metaphor for sexual intercourse in the blues. The rider is a sexual partner, a steady lover. Was a woman singing to her soldier lover in "C.C. Rider"?
    On the other hand, both male and female blues singers have sung "C.C. Rider." This makes sense, given that in African American usage, "rider" may be used to mean a lover of either sex - and it makes the soldier theory rather interesting.

(Debra DeSalvo: The Language of the Blues from Alcorub to Zuzu, New York 2006, p. 34 f.)
C.C. Rider broke a pattern for Chuck. Until that time he had only recorded songs of his own. C.C. Rider is a traditional folk song whose authorship is obscure. It has been a favorite of many great blues singers, including Ma Rainey, Lil Green and Bea Booze, all of whom recorded it. Chuck's adaptation is his own and is striking in the originality of its styling.
(From the notes on the back cover of Atlantic LP 8018 by Guy Remark)
"C.C. Rider" became a triumph of production technique for Jerry Wexler. ... This was one of the best records of its time, not really rock 'n' roll or rhythm and blues but an inspired mood that drew from both styles and also from conventional popular music.
(Charlie Gillett: The Sound of the City. The Rise of Rock and Roll, new ed. New York 1996, p. 71)
Baker reached way back to the repertoire of the "Mother of the Blues," Ma Rainey, for the classic "See See Rider." Many young listeners must have as- sumed - as I did at the time - that it was a new song.
(Chip Deffaa: Blue Rhythms. Six Lives in Rhythm And Blues, New York 2000, p. 193)

For the record:

   Chuck Willis: »C.C. Rider«. Recorded Jan. 31, 1957, in New York. First rel. on Atlantic # 1130 in March '57, the tune first charted in April, eventually reaching #1 r&b (BB) and #12 pop. Released on Atlantic LP # 8018 (Chuck Willis: King Of The Stroll) in late March 1958. Personnel included Gene Barge (tenorsax), Phil Kraus (marimbas) and Jesse Stone (arr/cond). In July, the album had passed the half- million sales mark; Chuck Willis died only two weeks after its release. BB Review Spotlight: Watch this one. Willis exhibits his usual sock show- manship and drive on "C.C. Rider," a great old blues with a haunting arrangement.

Atlantic LP # 8071 (cover)
   LaVern Baker: »See See Rider«. Recorded Sept. 26, 1962, in New York. First rel. on Atlantic # 2167 in Nov. 1962, the tune charted first in Dec., eventually reaching #9 r&b and #34 pop. It was to be the last of LaVern Baker's songs in the r&b Top Ten ever. Released on Atlantic LP # 8071 (See See Rider) in late Dec. '62 or early '63 (copyright on the back cover says 1962). BB 4-star-review: The old blues-standard is handed a wild, swinging, middle tempo rea- ding. The tune is handled in a modern groove with smart backing ...

*** BONUS SONG added March 31, 2012 ***

A smooth, jazzy-mellow reading of »C.C. Rider« from King Curtis' Atco LP King Size Soul (1967), recorded in Memphis, July 4, 1967 (yeah, they were working that day...). I don't know whether this album version is the same as the one released on Atco # 6711 in 1969.

King Curtis & The Kingpins: »C.C. Rider« from the Atco LP # SD 33-231 (1967):


  1. Another informative post and listening opportunity! It was great hearing Chuck Willis and LaVern Baker again, as it seems that I haven't heard them in eons.

  2. It regularly happens to me that over all the music I am happy to discover or unearth I forget about the classics. Like you say, rarely one actually hears them - and they tend to get ignored in the vinyl blogsphere which is focusing, understandably, on the rarer stuff. So once in a while it's just fine, I guess. One might even hear them differently and discover new sides to them. (It's the same with books, too, isn't it?). And sometimes the tunes are well-known but information about them or relevant background bits and pieces really aren't. And even more importantly, most classics are simply plain good!