"Baby Please Don't Go" Has Remained Popular with Artists Over the 75 Years Since It Was Written By Big Joe Williams

Posted by Billyjam, May 27, 2010 06:51am | Post a Comment
Big Joe Williams "Baby Please Don't Go"

Written, recorded, and released back in 1935 by the great delta blues musician and songwriter Big Joe Williams, the sBig Joe Williamsong "Baby Please Don't Go" has been popular with countless artists in the seventy five years since, having been covered by dozens upon dozens of different musicians to the point that it ranks among the top ten most recorded blues songs in music's history. 

Perhaps the most famous or recognizable cover version of "Baby Please Don't Go" is the 1964 recording/release by Them -- the Belfast, Northern Ireland blues-rock ensemble featuring Van Morrison. Them's cover (with "Gloria" on the B side), which was a top ten single in the UK in 1965 and a US AOR radio staple in consequent years, injected a whole rock n roll energy into the classic blues song. 

themSo influential was Van & co's version that nearly all of the versions of the song recorded or just played after 1965 (including by fellow Irish blues-rockers Taste featuring Rory Gallagher) are rock inflected covers a la Them rather than the original blues version by Williams. Another Irish rocker to cover the song was guitarist / vocalist Eric Bell, who was an original member of Thin Lizzy. 

It should be noted that a decade earlier Sun Records artist Billy Lee Riley & his Little Green Men also did a rock n roll inflected version of the song, but, since Riley never really made it big like many of his label-mates, it was not a popular recording and hence was not as influential as Van Morrison and Them's. Also worth noting is that Eric Burden & the Animals did a killer live version (similar to Them's) that got a lot less attention. It can be found on the retrospective two CD set The Animals The Deluxe BBC Files (1964 - 1968).

But in the decades before rock n roll it was almost a prerequisite for any blues player (be they guitarist, piano or harmonica player, etc.) to do their version of "Baby Please Don't Go." The long list of blues greats that did their renditions of the song include Big Bill Broonzy, Lightning Hopkins, Sam Montgomery, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Leonard 'Baby Doo' Muddy WatersCaston, and perhaps most notably Ray Charles and Muddy Waters, whose popular 1950's version introduced many new ears to the song.

Among those rockers who covered "Baby Please Don't Go," Ted Nugent's early band the Amboy Dukes recorded and released it as their debut single in 1967. Nugent, who was the guitarist with the group, has done the song as a solo artist in the consequent years and even included it on a live concert album. The Amboy Dukes' version can be found on their self-titled debut album and also on the Nuggets compilation.

Other rock bands to cover the song include early heavy metal Welsh band Budgie, who included it on their 1973 album Never Turn Your Back on a Friend; Aerosmith, who included their Them-influenced version (video below) on the 2004 blues covers album Honkin' on Bobo ; and, of course, AC/DC, whose great version is included in the fun concert video below with Bon Scott dressed as schoolgirl.

Tom Petty is among the countless other high-profile acts to have done a version of the song and even American Idol, which normally doesn't include too much rock n roll or blues, featured the song a couple of years ago when Amanda Overmyer covered it in her Janis Joplin inflected delivery. The original single by Joe Williams' Washboard Blues Singers can be heard on Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music, Vol. 4 (Revenant, 2000). If you are looking for various versions at Amoeba Music ask for assistance in locating.

Them "Baby Please Don't Go"

AC/DC "Baby Please Don't Go"

Lightnin' Hopkins "Baby Please Don't Go"

Aerosmith "Baby Please Don't Go"

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Taste (4), Ac.dc (1), Van Morrisson (1), Blues (31), Big Joe Williams (1), Rock (26), Rock N Roll (3), Ted Nugent (4), Rory Gallagher (3)