When most people think about music from the 1950s, they might recall songs like the ones heard on Happy Days or American Graffiti — “Rock Around the Clock,” “The Great Pretender,” “Yakety Yak,” and other tunes that bring to mind sock hops, soda fountains, and drive-ins. But before these more innocuous songs would grace integrated radio in the late-1950s, early-50s African-American R&B took quite a few liberties with song content, and double entendres ruled the day.
As a result, there are a number of songs from the period that are surprisingly suggestive, given the state of American music in the 1950s. What follows is a list (from least obvious to the most explicit) of eight songs that use double entendres that come pretty close to crossing the line — and two that obliterate the line altogether.
1) “Work with Me Annie,” Hank Ballard and the Midnighters (1954)
The group had been fairly successful recording as the Royals prior to the release of this record, but “Work With Me Annie” was huge. The FCC tried to ban it because of its suggestive lyrics (such as, “Annie, please don’t cheat / Give me all my meat”), but that only seemed to make the song even more popular. It sold a million copies and was number one on the R&B charts for seven weeks.
The Midnighters would go on to record several similarly-salacious “Annie” follow-up songs such as “Annie Had a Baby” and “Annie’s Aunt Fannie,” and, later, more mainstream songs like “Let’s Go, Let’s Go, Let’s Go,” and the original version of “The Twist.”
2) “Last of the Good Rocking Men,” The Four Jacks (1952)
The Four Jacks are probably the least-famous performers on this list and cut only a few singles. Certainly the fact that records like this were hardly played due to racy lyrics didn’t help move them up the charts. The title may sound innocuous enough, as if the singer is just a rock ‘n’ roller, but, as is often the case, rock is a euphemism for sex.
The lead vocalist sings, “If you’re tired of the thing you’ve got / Try my lovin’, it’s red hot / I’ve got something strong and tan / I’m the last of the good, rocking men.” The chorus chimes in with, “There’s one long foot for rockin’ in the morning / Baby, please don’t cry / There’s one more foot for rockin’ in the evening / Then you’ll shout, ‘My! My!’” He’s clearly not singing about sock hops or dancing.
3) “Sixty Minute Man,” Billy Ward and the Dominoes (1951)
This song was the most successful of these 10 songs chart-wise, and, consequently, the least obscure song on this list. The song is about “Lovin’ Dan” the “sixty minute man” whose “15 minutes of teasin’, 15 minutes of squeezin’, and 15 minutes of blowing [his] top” satisfies all the women. Because of the risqué nature of the song, it was banned by many radio stations, while others simply saw it as a novelty record.
“Sixty Minute Man” was #1 on the R&B charts and even crossed over and hit #17 on the pop charts – a significant and almost unheard of accomplishment for a black group at the time. It was also the top selling R&B record of the year, and overall has sold 1.5 million copies. It was so popular that the Lovin’ Dan character would reappear on “Don’t Stop Dan” by the Checkers in 1954 (the females tell Dan, “Don’t stop, Dan, you have 59 minutes to go!”) and the Dominoes’ “Can’t Do Sixty No More” in 1955.
4) “I Like My Baby’s Pudding,” Wynonie Harris (1950)
Harris is considered a rock ‘n’ roll pioneer, with songs like “All She Wants to Do Is Rock” and “Good Rockin’ Tonight” supporting his case, even if “rock” is again a euphemism for sex. Some of his songs were even more obvious, such as “I Love My Baby’s Pudding” and “Sittin’ on It All the Time.” On the surface, one might think “Pudding” is cooking, but like every song on this list, it isn’t really. Exhibit A, B, and C:
“Fannie Brown’s learned something you don’t learn in the books / I like my baby’s pudding, “99 times I’ve tried to eat / All those fine fancy cuts of country meat…I like my baby’s pudding, I like it best of all,” and, “She promised me she wouldn’t give no one a pudding but me / But I don’t believe her, I’ll just have to wait and see / Gonna watch my baby, both night and day / So she won’t give my pudding away / My baby’s pudding is all she owns / So there ain’t no meat for Henry Jones.”
5) “Big Long Slidin’ Thing,” Dinah Washington (1954)
Washington was one of the classiest and smoothest jazz and blues singers of the 1950s, and this recording is a lot more innuendo-laden that most of her hits. Ostensibly, it’s about the singer’s boyfriend, a trombone player, and she says, “I need my daddy with that big long slidin’ thing!” “‘I blow through here, then I work my fingers and my thumb / I slide it right up, then I slide it back again / And I get a lot o’ wind, and then I slide it back again / That is my daddy with that big long sliding thing, oh yeah!” That probably doesn’t need to be explained any further!
6) “Big Ten Inch Record,” Bull Moose Jackson (1952)
Benjamin Clarence “Bull Moose” Jackson was a tenor sax player who was fairly successful in the early 1950s, though this song was his last big hit. Recorded with the Tiny Bradshaw Band, the song’s lyrics refer to a 78 RPM record, which was 10 inches in diameter. The way the lyrics are presented, however, leads the listener to think Jackson is talking about something else entirely: “I really get her going / When I whip out my big ten inch…,” “Last night I tried to tease her / I gave my love a little pinch / She said, ‘Now stop that jivin’ / Now whip out your big ten inch…’” and “I cover her with kisses / And when we’re in a lovers’ clinch / She gets all excited / When she begs for my big ten inch….”
Each of these lyrics is followed — after a pause — by “record of a band that plays the blues.” The song was a bit too obvious to receive much airplay, and, oddly enough, it became most famous when Aerosmith covered it on their Toys in the Attic album in 1975. It was the only song on the album Steven Tyler didn’t write or co-write.
7) “Drill Daddy Drill,” Dorothy Ellis (1952)
Dorothy Ellis may well be the most educated performer on this list, having received a master’s degree in psychology from the University of Central Oklahoma — but it doesn’t take an advanced degree to figure out what this song is about. When the chorus chants, “Drill, drill, drill, daddy….he drills night and day,” and the lyrics offer, “Set up your drill in the middle of my field…drill in the sun, drill in the rain / If your drill gets rusty, grease it up again,” and “When one well runs dry, we’ll use another hole,” there’s no doubt that this is not a song about searching for natural resources.
8) “It Ain’t the Meat (It’s the Motion),” The Swallows (1951)
“It Ain’t The Meat” was originally slated to be the B-side of the single, but it slowly rose on the R&B charts even though few stations would play it; even today it comes off as extremely risqué. Despite the fact that one pure of heart and mind might think they are talking about a skinny girl’s ability to dance, the lyrics leave little doubt about the song’s implied meaning. In fact, almost every word in this song can be taken two ways – the “meat,” the “motion,” “the bigger they come,” “it makes a man want to blow his top,” and so on.
But, as lead Eddie Rich said, “[Although] everybody liked it everywhere…you couldn’t play it. The[y] blackballed us on that.” Consequently, though this was a great rhythmic song with superb harmonies, piano, and a pulsating beat set off by handclapping, it was a bit too overtly sexual for most people at the time, and as a result it was not a big-seller.
9) “Rotten Cocksuckers Ball,” The Clovers (1954)
The Clovers were one of the best-known groups on this list during the 1950s, charting with classics such as “Nip Sip,” “Devil or Angel,” and the often-covered “Love Potion #9.” They’d already had a dozen hits on the R&B charts when they recorded this song, their own version of “Darktown Strutters Ball” in 1954. It has just about every x-rated word in the song you can think of, and perhaps the line, “fuck, suck, and fight,” gives you some idea of the subject matter if you don’t know the song. It has to be heard to be believed.
10) “Don’t Fuck Around With Love,” The Blenders (1953)
The song was first recorded as “Don’t Play Around with Love” on Jay-Dee 780 in 1953, but the group’s manager had them record this version to send out to disc jockeys as a party record. Oddly enough, this song is superior in every way to the suitable-for-the-radio cut. The risqué version was finally released in 1971 on Kelway, and listeners hear Ollie Jones and James Deloach trade off lead on what is truly a great doo-wop song. It’s actually a shame that the chorus and title have kept it obscure and relegated it to a little-known gem.
Got a favorite risqué ’50s song you’d add to this list? Let us know in the comments!