Friday, March 08, 2013

»You Left The Water Running« Revisited

I was prompted to jot down this post by the wonderful version of »You Left The Water Running« by Maurice & Mac on Checker # 1197, recently featured over on It's All In The Grooves blogspot. Famously, this is a Penn-Hall song (official credits: Dan Penn, Rick Hall, Oscar Franck), recorded by numerous artists. However, and not- withstanding the notoriety of the song, some of the more obscure '60s versions are normally disregarded, and the chronological sequence of the respective recordings often appears uncertain. This is what I could arrive at so far (in chronological order):

     (1) Recorded by Billy Young, released on Chess # 1961, out in May 1966. The recording must therefore have taken place during the first months of '66, making this the first known recorded version. Billy Young from Macon, Ga., was a protégé of Otis Redding who took him to Muscle Shoals for a session at Fame Studios recording for his Jotis label. Billy was then invited to Chess Records to record a single for them in 1966, »Have Pity On Me / You Left the Water Running«; read more details here.

     (2) Recorded by Barbara Lynn at a uncertain date in summer '66, released on Tribe # 8319 and out in September 1966 (reported # 110 Bubbling under the Hot 100 in BB October 22, 1966, p. 24 and first charting in the Top Selling R&B singles # 49, same issue p. 34); read more details and listen to the song here.

     (3) Recorded in mid-October 1966 in Muscle Shoals (Fame Stud.) by Wilson Pickett, first released on the Atlantic LP # 8138 (The Wicked Pickett), out in December 1966. Sessions musicians involved: Gene Bowlegs Miller (tp), Gilbert Caples, Charlie Chalmers, Eddie Logan (ts), Spooner Oldham (p, org), Chips Moman (lead g), Jimmy Johnson (g), Tommy Cogbill (el-b), Roger Hawkins (d).

      (4) Demo recording by Otis Redding. Conventional wisdom has it that Otis cut that demo for the Pickett session in mid-October 1966. »And then there is the standard which Dan Penn wrote with Rick Hall and that was originally demoed by Otis Redding: "You Left The Water Running"« (Roben Jones: Memphis Boys. The Story of American Studios, Jackson 2010, p. 44). »... just one week after Wilson Pickett had recorded it at Fame for his “The Wicked Pickett” album, Pickett having utilised a 1966 Fame-cut demo of the song by Otis Redding« (quoted from here). Scott Freeman wrote about this demo:
»If taking Arthur Conley [another of Otis's protégés, HMS] to Muscle Shoals sent a not-so-subtle message to Stax, Otis took things a step further when he recorded there himself. Even though his contract with Stax specifically requir- ed him to record exclusively in Memphis, he cut a rough demo of an original called "You Left The Water Running" at Muscle Shoals. It was a spartan pro- duction, with Muscle Shoals owner Rick Hall drumming on a box, Phil keeping the beat with a tambourine, and Otis playing acoustic guitar. Still, Otis didn't take the song to Stax; he offered it to Atlantic's Wilson Pickett, who recorded it in Muscle Shoals for his Wicked Pickett album« (Freeman, Otis!, p. 190).
The demo was never issued during Otis's lifetime but appeared as a bootleg on Stone # 209 in 1976; it was first released legally in 1987. Reportedly, in Rick Hall's office there was a guitar hanging on the wall which was said to be the one used on Otis Redding's demo recording of »You Left the Water Running« (read more here).

     (5) Recorded by James & Bobby Purify in Muscle Shoals and released on the self-titled Bell LP # 6003, out in February 1967. Recording dates are unknown to me, but winter 1966 (Nov.-Dec.) is a fair guess, thus not long after Pickett's version. Personnel at Fame Studios included most musicians who also played at the Pickett session: L. Oldham (p), Jimmy Johnson (g), Roger Hawkins (d), Ed Logan, Charlie Chalmers (ts), and two staff musicians not present at the Pickett session: David Hood (bass) and Albert Lowe Jr. (g). You can hear this version below.

James & Bobby Purify as pictured on the cover of their first Bell LP (1967)

     (6) Recorded, at some time in 1967, by Don Varner (read more here), but never issued at the time and only released in 2005.

     (7) Recorded in 1967 by Ken Booth (with Tommy McCook and the Supersonics) and released on Caltone # 107B in the same year ... on the label (see also here), Ken Booth is given the songwriter's credits! You can listen to that version here.

     (8) Recorded in late 1967 or early 1968 in Muscle Shoals by Maurice & Mac (Maurice McAlister and McLauren Green) and released in March 1968 on Checker # 1197 (read more here); listen to their great version (maybe the best ever waxed) here.

     (9) Recorded by Sam & Dave on 8 or 11 July 1969, again at Fame Studios, Muscle Shoals. The recording was not issued at the time.

So this makes nine versions recorded during 1966-1969, six of which (at least) were recorded in Muscle Shoals and three of which were not issued until much later. Not related, as far as I know at the moment, to Penn-Hall's famous song is Wayne Cochran's B side of his King # 45-5994 single, released in 1965 and also entitled »You Left The Water Running«, but this needs further research. If somebody can help with Cochran's version, please drop me a line.

James & Bobby Purify: »You Left The Water Running« from the Bell LP # 6003 (1967):


  1. “Great god a’mighty, what history!”

  2. I was intrigued by Maurice & Mac's great version over on It's All in the Grooves blogspot which I didn't know, then I remembered of course B. Lynn's and W. Pickett's versions, then recalled to have heard J & B Purify's version two weeks ago ... and then started wondering how many versions there are? Many of them recorded in the very same studio and some even using the same session musicians ... It kind of made me aware of how different the record business of the '60s was from what we have today. Just imagine Katie Melua doing a song which is then recorded, in the same studio, by, say, Beyoncé, and some months later, using the same staff musicians, by Kylie Minogue ... and all released within a few months distance. One can't really imagine this happening today?