Monday, August 23, 2010

Song of the Week: "Done Somebody Wrong", Elmore James

Listen - Elmore James performs Done Somebody Wrong

Elmore James is the man. It doesn't take much more than that to describe James and his great, great recordings. Back in about 1983 or 1984, I was preaching the gospel of the Yardbirds like an itinerant preacher possessed by the big man himself. Then a kid from school named Justin Hibbard came up to me in the halls of our high school. He looked like the crazed preacher I looked like. "Have you ever heard of Elmore James?", he asked. "It's where The Yardbirds got everything. I was going through my dad's record collection and found a record of Elmore James and John Brim. It's great."

These were fighting words, but his invitation to come by after school to hear the record he was carrying down from the musical Mount Sinai eased my anger. He was right. On every count. In fact, today's SOTW, is one of those songs from which The Yardbirds, shall we say, "found inspiration." The song is Done Somebody Wrong and it features the patented Elmore James kick ass slide guitar for which he is so famous. In fact, his fame as a slide guitarist can sometimes irk me. Not because he wasn't a great guitarist. Nope. It's more that James is such a huge figure in post war blues slide guitar -- defining the new electric tone and the new electrified attack -- that listeners too often miss his extremely great voice. His gravel voice matches the tone of his electrified Kay hollow body flat top guitar beautifully. Just the way Elmore James says "Oh Yeah" makes me happy. As he finishes his sentence, his guitar responds. Together they fill out a song as nicely as Bettie Page filled out a sweater. Listen as Elmore fills in grunts and moans to match his guitar in the last verse, and then again in the outro lead. Two instruments harmonizing perfectly in concert. I particularly like it as he finishes the first sentence and throws in an "uh" to match his guitar dropping down.

My mother told me these days would surely come, but I wouldn't listen to her said I got to have some fun, uh. Mmm, I must of did somebody wrong. Ehh, It's all my fault I must have did somebody wrong.


  1. Elmore James was my introduction to the blues. Such a profound effect his records had on me that my (steel trap) memory wants to treat it as a personal discovery, as I huddled in some corner trying to understand music. No doubt it was discovered just like you, after bumping into someone in the hallway. In fact it was that same LP with John Brim that I listened to so many times.


  2. I got "it" from Jack, albeit somewhat tardily in my post college year of 1989. On West 8th, was it? A late bloomer, but a happy one.

  3. Great post Morgan. I love Elmore James's voice too. So raw but perfectly controlled.