The Story Behind: The Swingin’ Medallions, “Double Shot of My Baby’s Love”

Each month in “The Story Behind,” I’ll look at the history of a well-known Top 40 hit based on interviews I’ve conducted with individuals who performed some of the most familiar pop hits of the 1960s and ’70s.

This month, I’ll look at a song about which the late Southern writer Lewis Grizzard wrote in 1993, “Even today, when I hear the Swingin’ Medallions sing ‘Double Shot of My Baby’s Love,’ it makes me want to stand outside in the hot sun with a milkshake cup full of beer in one hand and a slightly drenched 19-year-old coed in the other.” It’s a sentiment many people probably share with Grizzard, as “Double Shot” is a song that pretty much epitomizes parties, good music, and good times. Based on an interview I conducted with Swingin’ Medallions’ frontman John McElrath , here’s the story behind 1966’s “Double Shot of My Baby’s Love.”’

The Medallions got together in 1962 at Lander College in Greenwood, South Carolina, when group founder John McElrath and his friends formed the band to make a little extra money to help pay for school. Their act was based in rhythm and blues, and like many up-and-coming regional bands during the ’60s, they made their living lining up gigs to play at frat parties and in clubs.

While on the club and campus party circuit, McElrath and the group — now consisting of Carroll Bledsoe, Steve Caldwell, Jim Doares, Brent Forston, Charlie Webber, Jimmy Perkins and Joe Morris — had become familiar with a song called “Double Shot,” a huge regional hit that had been originally recorded by a Southern band known as Dick Holler and the Holidays. As McElrath told me, “I had heard it played in Columbia [SC] in the 1950s. It was a local hit when I was a teenager, and when we put our band together, we started to play it, too.”

The Dick Holler version is pretty mundane as you can hear in the clip above, and it’s actually a testament to the Medallions that they saw the potential to make the song a hit. But that’s exactly what they did, and when the group had the opportunity to record some sides for record producer Bill Lowery from Atlanta, one of the first songs that came to mind was “Double Shot.” However, as many groups making the jump from party band to recording artists have learned, playing to a live audience and feeding off of the energy of the crowd, and trying to get things just right in the studio, are vastly different things.

“They kept trying to have us record it with different arrangements and in different ways with horns and so forth that didn’t fit the song,” McElrath said, and the group became frustrated. “We knew we had a good song, We wanted to play it live like we did at shows, so we just took off and went to Arthur Smith Studios in Charlotte. We actually pulled in people off the street and had a big crowd in the studio to make background noise, and that party atmosphere gave us the sound we were looking for.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prQStSL6MKs&nohtml5=False

With the “live-sound” version, everything clicked. Initially, the record was released on their For Sale label, and they sold them at their performances, but it got some airplay and really started to take off. Soon they added the “Swingin’” moniker to the Medallions name, and history was made. Smash Records liked what they heard, but before distributing the record nationally, they wanted the song altered a bit.

McElrath said, “They didn’t like some lines, like, ‘Woke up this morning, my head hurt so bad/ The worst hangover that I ever had,’ and made us change it to, ‘Worst morning after that I ever had.'” The line, “She loved me so long, and she loved me so hard” were apparently considered too risqué and were changed to, “She kissed me so long, and she kissed me so hard” as well. As McElrath told me, “It was all stupid, I thought.” This type of censorship seems particularly ridiculous today, but was in fact all too common during the 1960s.

Even with censorship, the song was popular, and the single was released and became a million-seller, going all the way to #17 on the charts. “It was strange, really, because it had moved up on the charts before it got played up north and out west and became a hit. It helped us as far as our touring went because it was so popular.” Like many groups who made it big on the heels of one quick hit in the 1960s, the group was expected to follow up with another song very similar in nature to their hit. Occasionally it worked out for the groups, but just as often it did not, and it frequently led to bands being pegged as being one dimensional.

That may well be what happened to the Swingin’ Medallions. The group next released “She Drives Me Out of My Mind,” a song that, “Freddie Weller, a friend of ours with Bill Lowery, wrote. They wanted our next song to be as close to ‘Double Shot’ as we could make it.” As you can hear in the clip below, it’s pretty close to “Double Shot,” perhaps as close as you can get without repeating the sound verbatim. Despite — or maybe because of — the similarities, the record stalled at #71.

To give credit to Smash, they stood behind the group for a while, even though the records weren’t charting. “I Don’t Want To Lose It For You Baby” (1966), “Don’t Cry No More” (1967), “Turn On The Music” (1967), and “Bow And Arrow” (1967) all failed to make the charts. The same fate awaited a version of Bruce Channel’s “Hey! Baby” called “Hey, Hey Baby” on Capitol in 1968, and a release on the 123 label in 1970. As a result, with just one Top 40 hit, the group became labeled as a one-hit wonder, even if their one hit was one of the greatest garage rock/frat rock/party rock hits of all time.

Eventually, band members went their separate ways, most going back to college to finish their education, but there were no regrets. As McElrath told me, “We had a lot of fun. I think we just lucked into it.” Luck or not, the song and the band have become legends, and a modern incarnation of the group performs even today. Fittingly, perhaps Grizzard put it best: “I have asked often what, if anything, endures? Well, the Swingin’ Medallions and their kind of music — my generation’s music — has.” Many music lovers would certainly agree.

About Rick Simmons 65 Articles
Dr. Rick Simmons was born in South Carolina and currently lives in Louisiana. He has published five books, the two most recent being Carolina Beach Music from the '60s to the '80s: The New Wave (2013) and Carolina Beach Music: The Classic Years (2011). Based on his interviews with R&B, “frat rock,” and pop music artists from the '50s, '60s, and '70s, his books examine the decades-old phenomenon known as Carolina beach music and its influence on Southern culture. His next book, The Reference Guide to Carolina Beach Music Recordings and Artists, 1940-1980, will be published by McFarland in 2018.
  • John

    Hi Rick! Nice story. Recently, Double Shot was released with some studio talk (yelling to keep quiet, etc.), I’m GUESSING as they were about to add the vocals.

  • George L

    Dick Holler went on to write ABRAHAM, MARTIN & JOHN.

  • coker easler

    My fathers cousin was the saxophonist for the swingin’ medallions

  • Jim Davis

    Thanks, Dr. Simmons. I’m always fascinated with these behind the scenes details. Love how the band created its own “wall of sound” by grabbing people off the street in Charlotte to provide the party-like buzz for the session. FYI — In 1983, I was a deejay at a small market radio station when Joe Stampley’s cover hit the Top 10 on Billboard’s country chart. It was pretty faithful to the Medallions’ original, but I seem to recall Stampley using the original, uncensored lyrics — complete with references to “the worst hangover” and being loved “long” and “hard.” Guess you could slip a lot more past the censor 17 years later.

  • Tom Gauger

    One day in 1966, I was invited to the Arthur Smith Studios control room for the final work on “Double Shot.” At the time my main gig was mid-day jock at WIST in Charlotte…the only competition to “Big WAYS.”
    In any event, the session was as described; a party atmosphere with a nod toward the Beach Boys monster 1965 hit “Barbara Ann.”
    At the time, the Arthur Smith Studios had an Ampex four-track recorder, possibly a 351 with Sel-Sync, in addition to one or two Ampex 350’s. When I arrived, (and if I remember this rightly) the Medallions had already laid down the instrument tracks, using three of the Ampex tracks. The vocal part involved the groupies and “people off the street.”
    The instrument tracks were recorded in stereo although, to my knowledge, nothing in stereo was ever released.
    It was a smoky and very festive atmosphere. At least two takes were done of the vocal part as the room got rowdier…and it was a lot of fun.
    I think we finished in the late afternoon.
    Two days later I got a call from someone from Mercury, possibly Romeo Davis, asking if I’d come back to Arthur Smith’s and give an opinion about the final mix. After listening to it with a fresh ear, I thought it was a bit “muddy” and the percussion was too far in the background.
    They played it back several times and asked what I would do to it. I could hear Joe Morris really rockin’ on the drum set but it wasn’t cutting through the mob sound in the studio.
    I added an Ampex 350 to feed the EMT echo plate to get a little back slap on Joe’s snare. We also tweaked the high end a little to spark of the vocal part.
    Frankly, I don’t believe that anything we did in “post” (the word hadn’t come into use yet) added significantly to an already great song, but it did sharpen it a bit.
    WIST got it on the air BEFORE Stan Kaplan did on WAYS.

  • Kristy Ellis Kelnhofer

    Do you have any information regarding the use of studio musicians for the recording…in particular, the drummer?

  • George Vail

    Dick Hollar’s version is right in line with 50’s Chalypso movement.. Medallions version is a smoother typical mid 60’s sound. Both songs have great hooks.

  • Larry A

    Great story. Had Jimmy Perkins, Medalliions’ bass player on our show, “Mama Lillie’s Beach Party,” recently. What a nice guy! He’s still with them, playing regularly,