Thursday, September 29, 2016
SHG: Brook Benton: "The Boll Weevil Song"
Brook Benton: “The Boll Weevil Song”
Entered the chart on: 6/5/1961
Peaked on: 7/10/1961
Weeks at #2: 3
Song at #1: “Tossin’ and Turnin’ by Bobby Lewis
Allow me to preface this by saying that Bobby Lewis’ “Tossin’ and Turnin’” is one of the most underrated rock & roll records of the early 60s.
Speaking of underrated, here’s Brook Benton. He charted an amazing 22 hits on the top 40 between 1959 and 1970 and virtually nobody ever talks about him anymore. Even more than Sam Cooke, he is the true inheritor of Nat “King” Cole’s crown; his early singles could practically be clones of Cole ballads. He didn’t do as much uptempo material as Sam, but he could excel when called on to do so (see “Hotel Happiness”). And he even did a series of duets with jazz legend Dinah Washington.
If anyone talks about him anymore, it’s usually in regards to his last hit: a rendition of Tony Joe White’s “Rainy Night in Georgia” which hit the top 5 in early 1970. But his highest charting hit was this. And it’s a freaking novelty song! That’s just typical of our luck here at Second Hand Goods.
So, we start off with what sounds like a country song, with some very Floyd Cramer-ish piano. And then...ugh! This is a spoken-word number, isn’t it? Yep, the only Brook Benton song I’ll be covering won’t even feature Brook Benton doing what he does best. Well, we get the “Gotta have a home” refrain but that’s, like, 5% of the “song.” The rest is Brook just narrating this whimsical story about a boll weevil moving into a cotton farm, bringing his whole family along and basically making a nuisance of himself for the poor farmer.
As near as I can tell, this was loved by the same people that loved Disney’s Song of the South. It features the same Southern dialect storytelling style and, frankly, comes across as a bit stereotypical and embarrassing today.
Oh well, Brook Benton has 21 other hits to choose from. I’d rather be listening to any of them.