Saturday, January 13, 2007

Shout Bamalama

Song: Shout Bamalama
Artist: Otis Redding & The Pinetoppers
Written: Otis Redding
Year : 1960
Album/Single: Orbit 135

Cobra's Version
Song: Shout Bama Lama
Released: May 1, 2001
Album: Life, Love and Leaving

I thought I would begin where it began for me. I bought a spindle of CDR's & they came with 100 free mp3's from To say emusic's selection is limited would be kind (however, if you are a music freak such as myself, it is a cheap and legal way to explore different genres). I believe I did a search for "Detroit " on a whim & came across an album called "Sympathetic Sounds of Detroit". Pull it up and see the White Stripes listed - OK, I've heard of them. The rest of the bands listed, however, I had never heard of (and I live in Detroit!). The Come Ons, The Hentchmen, Bantam Rooster, The Detroit Cobras . . . ? What the hell, I have 100 mp3's to download I might as well take a flyer on one or two. So I downloaded some of the songs. Burned them to a disc (along with so other stuff I downloaded - Warren Zevon, Brownie & Sonnie, Pretenders . . . ).

I have a 45 minute drive home - about the 40 minute mark I came across "Shout Bama Lama".

WHOA - What the fuck was that?
So I played it again. WOW!

By this point I am home in my driveway, listening for the 5th time before one of my sons come out to leave - spots me in my truck - I invite him in to have a listen with me - he tells me its great (to appease me) and leaves. Kids don't know shit about about music anyways.

Anyways, that was my introduction to the power that is the Detroit Cobras

On with the show . . .

Today's selection was recorded by Otis Redding & the Pinetoppers in 1960. Or was it Otis & The Shooters? Anyways, it was Otis's first record. Or, at worst, his second. The Pinetoppers were a Macon, Georgia band lead by Johnny Jenkins. Johnny saw Otis playing at The Douglass Theater and offered to 'play behind him.' At some point Otis recorded "Shout Bama Lama" with the band and had relative success with the song.

2 years later, Otis drove (yeah - he was also their driver!) the band to Memphis so Johnny Jenkins & the Pinetoppers could lay some tracks down at the Stax studios. By all accounts the sessions did not go well and since there was time left at the end, it was offered to Otis to record a song. "These Arms of Mine" was laid down with Johnny Jenkins on piano and Steve Cropper on guitar. The rest, to turn a cliche, is history.

"Shout Bamalama" starts with some shouts and screams as if they are at a party (very reminiscent of the Temptations "I Can't Get Next to You" or "Psychedelic Shack" - whether "Shout Bama Lama" was the inspiration for this or not, I do not know). Then the up tempo horn & guitar driven riff kicks in at a frantic pace. Being that Little Richard was also from Macon, Georgia, the song is often liken to a Little Richard screamer. Rightfully so.

The Lyrics:
(As best as I can transcribe them . . . )

"He's down in Alabama
I shouting Bamalama
Way down in Louisiana
Well, well, nobody gone set him down

Lord have mercy on my soul
How many chickens have I stole
One last night and the night before
I'm going back to try and get 10, 11 more
I love the chicken baby
Shouting Bamalama
Well, well, nobody gone set him down

?? Nine Feet & Ten Feet were going towards the feild ??
?? Nine Feet stepped on Ten Feet's heel ??
?? Ten Feet swung around and knocked Nine Feet's grin ??
He teeth fell out and his tongue stayed in
His captain said so
He got chicken baby
Shouting Bamalama
Well, well, nobody gone set him down

Leo the Monkey told the lion one day
'A bad little gorilla coming down your way'
They way he talk about your family is a crying shame
He say your mother is working on the chain gang
She busting bricks now
Shouting Bamalama

Well, well, nobody gone set him down

The preacher and the deacon were praying one day
Along come a bear coming down their way
The preacher told the deacon to say a prayer
He said "lord, a prayer? I want to kill this bear"
I got to make it baby
Shout Bamalama
I've got to run for it
Well, well, nobody gone set him down"

If anyone can fill in the blanks for me - even if it a guess (which is all I have done here) please do not hesitate to share them with us.

I tried following Rachel & company's version to see if I could pickup on any of the mystery lyrics but I am convinced that they don't have a very good handle on the lyrics either. Rachel did tweak the lyrics a bit (reversing the deacon and preacher for one) but pretty much stays on track. By all accounts it was recorded by Jack White (yeah, that Jack White) in his home studio.

It also is a prime example of how the Cobra's take liberties with the names of the songs they cover. The name of the original : "Shout Bamalama". The Cobra's version : "Shout Bama Lama". Minor difference ? Perhaps, unless you are trying to research the song, that is.

So if you are not familiar with the Cobra's version, please buy it (you won't be disappointed). And it goes without saying, if this is first Otis in your library, it won't be the last.

Download it:
Otis Redding - Shout Bamalama - 1960 - Otis! The Definitive Otis Redding

(BTW, I'd kill (not really) to get a copy of the flip side - "Fat Gal")


bitter red said...

She busting bricks now
(unintelligible) **I think she says here "oooh you got a workin' mom"

He said "lord, a prayer? I want to kill this bear"
I got to make it baby

Here I think she says "Lord I pray I won't kill that bear, I gotta run for it, I gotta make it baby...

joe.mares said...

Thanks for the suggestions, bitter red (why so bitter?)

You may be right as far as what Rachel sings - I was trying to transcribe what Otis sang . . . I don't think Rachel knows the actual lyrics - a point I will prove in a future post for "Secret Agents"

Thanks again

Erik said...

I think it's: "Lord, a prayer won't kill this bear."

Nice blog by the way!

Gnarlodious said...

Here's what I hear:

He down Alabama
I shoutin bama lama
Way down Louisiana
Well well well nobody gonna set him down

Lord have mercy on my soul
How many chickens have I stole
One last night and the night before
I'm goin back to try and get ten eleven more
Start in get 'em made up
I love the chicken baby
Shoutin bama lama
Well well well nobody gonna set him down

Nineteen seven she was headin for the view
Nineteen ten for the ten fit in here?
Nine ten lover drinkin whiskey and gin
Teeth fell out but his tongue stayed in
His captain said so
Ooh I like my chicken baby
Yeah shoutin bamalama
Well well well nobody gonna set him down

Lil' ol Monkey told the lion one day
Said a bad little fella coming down your way
Talk about your family its a cryin shame
He said your mamas workin on the chain gang
She's busting bricks now
Ooh she gonna work 'em all
Shouting bamalama
Well well well nobody gonna set him down

Deacon and the preacher were a-prayin one day
Long come a bear comin down a-their way
Deacon said preacher better say a prayer
Said lord a prayer won't kill that bear
I gotta roll boy
Ooh I gotta make it baby
Yeah shoutin bama lama
Well well well nobody gonna set him down

He down in Alabama
Yeah I'm shoutin bama lama
Way down in Louisiana
Well well well well nobody gonna set him down

joe.mares said...

I think you've nailed what Rachel is singing, but I,m not sure it's the same thing Otis is singing.

d. said...

I cut this song a few years ago - well..tried to. Obviously, like everybody else, I couldn't ever get the words straight. Went as far as getting an original - hand written - lead sheet from the publisher. Guess what? The missing lyrics were just scribbles. Don't think they knew what Otis sang either. Otis may likely have not known either-- or scrambled them on this recording. Nonetheless, it is one of the THE GREATEST RECORDS OF ALL TIME.

One thing I'm pretty sure... The deacon councils to say a prayer and Otis says a prayer ain't gonna kill this bear... better make it baby...

Steve Ripley
The Tractors

Anonymous said...

Found this post looking for the lyrics, I guess everyone's lost.

I think I can fill in some holes in verse two. I think she's saying:
A little ol' monkey told a lion one day
Said a bad little fella comin' downa your way.
Talkin' bout your family it's a cryin' shame.
Says your mama's workin on the chain gang.
She's bustin' bricks now.
Yeah she's doin' the work it off.

Hope that helps.

Anonymous said...

if you are still looking for "fat gal," it looks like it is on the cd linked above. of course, whether that cd is in print/findable is another story, but i noticed this while looking at otis info on and thought I'd pass it on.

Anonymous said...

oops, twilight zone has "fat gal" available here:

joe.mares said...

wow - thanks for the leads !

Anonymous said...


Thanks for sharing this link - but unfortunately it seems to be not working? Does anybody here at have a mirror or another source?


joe.mares said...

It still works for me James. It will pull up a page where you can preview the song and provides a link to download the song if you want to keep it

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I have a inquiry for the webmaster/admin here at

Can I use part of the information from your post above if I provide a link back to this website?