Mama Was A Go Go Girl (honkytonk and rockabilly meet go go and the twist)

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Mama Was A Go Go Girl-


Last week I was reading about changes the 60s brought to women in country music in my book “Finding Her Voice- The Saga Of Women In Country Music”. There was a passing note about a song called Daddy Was A Preacher, Mama Was A Go Go Girl by Joanna Neel(?)! I have been singing that song for many years, all along thinking it was written by Southern Culture On The Skids (it is SO their kind of song). Of course, I went to youtube to find out more. I found two earlier versions of the song- the original by Betty Jo Bangs, and the one by Joanna Neel. In the description there was a link to WFMU’s Beware Of The Blog with a post of several records that combined country and go go. Being born in 1961, I was exposed to go go dancing, and the grooves that inspired it, from a very early age- and I loved it. Imagine me at about 7-10 years old doing the monkey and the swim ;). Of course, I had to run with this one.


Rockabilly Meets Go Go-


A go go type of feel is fairly common in the rockabilly of the early 60s. Wanda Jackson brought this rendering to Little Richard’s Rip it Up in 1963 (Grady Martin is likely the guitar player). Another Wanda recording from that time period that certainly makes me want to do the swim is Stupid Cupid. Also, one of my favorites from Brenda Lee is Sweet Nothin’s. She performs it in that clip on the Saturday Night Beechnut Show. You can see all the audience members, and even Brenda herself, chewing their Beechnut gum.


Country A-Go Go-


The go go feel also made its way into some country music. I used to strut around the house (at about 4 or 5 years old) singing along to this hit from Nancy Sinatra- These Boots Are Made For Walking. Jeannie C Riley appears on some country music TV show with the interesting combination of honkytonk hair and a mod outfit, calling out hypocrisy (while practicing incongruity) in her huge hit Harper Valley PTA. (I’ve had a great time performing this song over the last several months. There is always at least one woman in the audience who knows all the words. It inspired the Mayor of Carrboro, NC to tell me recently about a band she used to play in that did These Boots Are Made For Walking. Fun.)

Even some old school country bands were inspired to shimmy up their groove. Check out George Jones on White Lightnin’ in 1965. I could swim to that. I played a dance at a friend’s barn a couple years ago, and some of the dancers were young enough to have no idea what go go dancing was. Here’s a little taste of what it looks like in the closing credits to the movie Bikini Beach, featuring Candy Johnson.


Do The Twist-


A closely related dance craze of the early to mid 60s was the twist. Chubby Checker’s recording was the only record that made it to the billboard #1 slot two different times. First time was 1960, but the 1962 re-release was the one that really got people doing the dance move in a big way. The WFMU’s Beware the Blog post with mp3s of country and rockabilly records that had a twist feel or subject included some jewels. In this one, Bob Wills seamlessly brings the dance groove to an old standard on this mp3 of Buffalo Twist. I used to have this on a cassette, and was tickled to find it online, even though it is not on youtube.

There were some recordings and performances that took this unlikely combination to a more ridiculous place. Here is June Carter (yes- of the Carter Family) explaining how to do the twist in this mp3 called Mama Teach Me. And for even more hilarity, check out cowboy actor and Disney voice over man Rex Allen’s Rodeo Twist . As the blog so succinctly states “Worlds collide as cowboy crooner Rex gets with what all the kids are doing nowadays”. And while we’re on worlds colliding, how about this weird juxtaposition of teenage Brenda Lee in an evening gown singing Ernest Tubb’s Thanks A Lot over a go go type groove and arrangement?


The Groove Lives On-


You don’t see a whole lot of swim or monkey on the dance floor these days (although there were some pretty down home folks doing the twist at our last Prissy Polly’s show!), but the grooves definitely live on. The last two examples I want to include come from the excellent guitar playing of Cousin Kenny Vaughan. The right hand man to Marty Stuart in the fabulous superlatives, Kenny steps to the front in a recent show to promote his own record and gives Marty a chance to play a supporting role with the Fabulous rhythm section on Carolee. And finally, a rippin fast variation in this duo of Kenny with another one of my heroes, Rosie Flores doing Country Boy. Awesome.


Thanks for reading, and please share with anyone who you think might enjoy this.

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