“See See Rider Blues” – Ma Rainey (Paramount, 1924)

The original rendition of “See See Rider,” which became a standard recorded by countless artists in many genres, was a low-moaning version by the “Mother of the Blues,” Ma Rainey, in October 1924 in New York City. Her accompanying Georgia Jazz Band on this occasion starred Louis Armstrong on cornet, joined by horn men Buster Bailey and Charlie Green, with Fletcher Henderson on piano and Charlie Dixon on banjo. Rainey and Lena Arant were credited as co-writers of the song, which was originally advertised as the B side of a Paramount single, “Jealous Hearted Blues,” in 1925. Its longevity was established not only by reissues of two takes of the Paramount recording, but by hit singles (some of them titled “C.C. Rider”) on the Billboard charts by Wee Bea Booze, Chuck Willis, LaVern Baker, Bobby Powell, the Animals, and Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels (in a medley with “Jenny Take a Ride”), not to mention the many other versions by blues, soul, jazz, pop, country and rock performers. The cover versions generally omitted the introductory verse of Rainey’s song and were also played with either a lighter feel or a more rocking approach. The meaning of “rider” has long been debated, with definitions ranging from an unfaithful lover to a dynamic sexual partner to a traveling preacher or judge, but when Willis’ Atlantic single hit the charts in 1957, the African-American press reported that some radio stations had banned it after learning that it meant “a dirty old low-down pimp.”

2018-03-06T18:17:02+00:00 March 6th, 2018|