Why does Bob Dylan like Bony Moronie

By Tony Attwood

Scott Cohen wrote a piece in Interview Magazine in February 1986 which basically seemed to consist of Dylan giving very short answers to a series of questions, including details of songs he particularly liked.

Included in the list was “Bony Moronie” which is referred to as “some great minor masterpiece.”  I am not sure if that was Dylan’s actual comment, but I’m taking it that this was a song he particularly liked.

Bony Moronie was the third single by Larry Williams, released in 1957.

The song was a hit for Williams, and he had other hits in the next couple of years with  “Short Fat Fannie”, “Slow Down”, “Dizzy, Miss Lizzy”, “Bad Boy” and “She Said Yeah”. 

Wikipedia tells us that Larry Williams’ life “mixed tremendous success with violence and drug addiction,” and that he was a longtime friend of Little Richard – and indeed when Little Richard left rock n roll to become a preacher, it is Williams who was designated by the record company to take over as its lead performer.

This he did as “Short Fat Fannie” and “Bony Moronie” each sold over one million copies.  And indeed some of his songs were covered later by The Beatles, the Rolling Stones and John Lennon as a solo artist.

Williams success however faded quickly, and in 1960 he was given a three year jail term for drug dealing.  However he did return with Little Richard in the mid 1960s both as a performer, as a manager and musical director, giving Little Richard considerable success once again.

However he seemingly never quit the drugs scene, and Wiki reports that in 1977 Williams threatened to kill Little Richard over a drug debt.  Williams died aged 44 on 7 January 1980.  It was reported as suicide.

However thereafter Martin Allbritton claimed to be Larry Williams, and toured billing himself as Larry Williams.   There was also a 1970s revival of Larry Williams work thanks to a glam rock band, Hush who performed Bony Moroney.

Unfortunately the Hush recording of Bony Moroney is not available in the UK for me to display it here but here is Tom Jones singing it

So why does Bob Dylan like this song?

It is classic 1950s rock n roll, and we know that Bob has always had a fascination with this music from his young days.

And unlike so many fast songs of the era, this song does actually lyrics that run all the way through (compare, for example, “Hound Dog”).   Also there are no compromises in terms of the pure 1950s rock music: the sax solo after the first two verses is the real thing – exactly capturing rock n roll before the electric guitar came to dominate everything.  Yes there is a guitar in the second instrumental break which fades the song out, but its engagement is minor.  This is the real rock n roll as it really did sound in the late 1950s.

Here’s another Larry Williams hit

Actually if you watch that video you can understand why as we got older, those of us who loved to jive moved over to modern jive.  It is danced at a somewhat slower speed.   Mind you it is still fast enough to be great fun.

There is a list of some of the other songs in this series in our index.

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