Monday, May 22, 2006

Get on Down With Mr. Big Stuff!

Get on Down With Mr. Big Stuff!

(EDITOR'S NOTE - Revived and edited on 11/20/07.)

As I mentioned in a prior post, Jean Knight's 1971 hit "Mr. Big Stuff" set off a flurry of covers, "answer records" and songs that cribbed the song's sassy message and jaunty beat. I mentioned at that time that I would do a post or mini-set about the "Mr. Big Stuff" records. Thanks to some prodding from a Soul Sides post on the same topic, here's the set!

1. Jean Knight, "Mr. Big Stuff" - No write-up needed; if you don't know this song you must've stumbled upon this blog by using Blogger's "random blog" feature! Just kidding. Read the Soul Sides post above for info about Jean Knight and this classic song. Knight would go back to the well on her next Stax single, "You Think You're Hot Stuff," and the Mr. Big Stuff LP track "You City Slicker," but lightning like "Mr. Big Stuff" only strikes once.

2. Jimmy Hicks, "I'm Mr. Big Stuff" - It's only fitting that another New Orleans musician would bring out an "answer" record to the Knight hit pretty quickly, and Jimmy Hicks' Big Deal 45 may very well have been the first. Over a dirtier and slower groove than the original, Hicks tweaks just enough words to tell Mr. Big Stuff's side of the story in an almost-flat baritone.

3. Vicki Anderson, "I'm Too Tough For Mister Big Stuff (Hot Pants)" - James Brown enters the fray with this one from James Brown Revue member Vicki Anderson. Although the song doesn't use the "Mr. Big Stuff" groove or words, the sass is there, as Vicki puts down all of the guys all over the U.S. who might think they're "Mr. Big Stuff" - even Wilson Pickett, her husband Bobby Byrd, and James Brown himself! The songwriter credit on this one goes to JB guitarist Hearlon "Cheese" Martin, the only such credit I've seen on a JB production.

4. Mighty Sam, "I'm Mr. Big Stuff" - "Mr. Big Stuff" producer Wardell Quezerque revisited his hit for this recording on Mighty Sam, employing a slower and softer groove. There are several great compilations featuring Quezerque's '60s and '70s productions, and all are worth checking out; they show that Allen Toussaint wasn't the only genius in New Orleans during the soul era!

5. Tomorrow's Children, "Sister Big Stuff" - Considering that both "Mr. Big Stuff" and King Floyd's "Groove Me" (recorded at the same recording session in 1970) made use of reggae-tinged grooves, it's only a natural that both songs would later be recorded by reggae artists in Jamaica. Tomorrow's Children reverse the gender of the title character here and create a good group version of the song in the process.

6. Barbara Lynn, "Daddy Hot Stuff" - The singer/guitarist Lynn borrows the lyrical feel, if not the sass or groove, of the Knight recording to provide a nice mid-tempo groover under the production auspices of Huey Meaux, whose contributions to soul deserve more attention than is currently given.

7. The James Young Blues Band, "Funky Booty" - I suppose the JYBB thought they were fooling someone by renaming the song, but "Funky Booty" stands as a great instrumental version of "Mr. Big Stuff." I don't know anything about this group or the recording, but I know the group does a good job with the relaxed groove.

8. Freddie Robinson, "Sister Hot Pants" - Blues singer/guitarist Freddie Robinson was signed to Stax's Enterprise label at the time of Jean Knight's hit and the two albums he recorded are very good (his take on Percy Mayfield's "River's Invitation" is a sampler's delight). "Sister Hot Pants" finds Robinson's sly vocals admitting that he is indeed "Mr. Big Stuff" but challenging the title character to drop the sass and come on to him. It's fun stuff (dig the reading of the line "I got something right here, girl, that can make you come alive"), but the song did not see the light of day until the 1999 issue of the Ace/Stax compilation Stax Funx 2.

9. Lyn Collins, "Mr. Big Stuff" - As mentioned in my prior post, Lyn Collins does her thing over a lighter and faster version of the original, but provides a surprise twist at the end.

10. Everclear, "AM Radio" - This is the first (and probably only) time a rock song (and a contemporary one, to boot) will appear on this blog. Everclear's 2000 homage to '70s music and culture made great use of samples from the Knight recording and caught my attention the first time I heard it on the (FM) radio. Even after thirty-plus years, "Mr. Big Stuff" still can deliver the goods.


Anonymous said...

I would like to make the first request to up this as a zip.
Thanks, and keep up the great work.

Larry Grogan said...

Don't forget 'Mr Tuff Stuff' by Toby King

The Stepfather of Soul said...

Larry, good catch. I forgot that one.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to second the request for a zip file - much appreciated! And, keep up the great work!


Anonymous said...

Hey man... Don't forget Heavy D's version of Mr. Big Stuff... it's a decent hip-hop homage. Lemme know if you need me to mp3 you, cause I got it in the collection.


The Stepfather of Soul said...

Steve, that's a version I didn't have. Could you email it to me?

thecorrector said...

Looks like I got here just in time.
I seem to remember Schoolly D did a less inspired cover of Mr. Big Stuff also.

Soul 4 Sale said...

I know one more cover of this song in a reggae style. I can search it at home you're interested (actually at office)
Nuff Respect

The Stepfather of Soul said...

Would be very interested. Please e-mail it to me.

Unknown said...

respect for this great thread!

i know two early reggae versions released in about 1971:

- John Holt's "Sister Big Stuff"
- Dennis Alcapone's "Teach The Children" (!!)

if you are interested i can send them to you in exchange for those soul versions. Contact me ..