Why does Bob Dylan like “Lucille” by Little Richard and some Zappa too

by Tony Attwood

This article is from the series “Why does Bob Dylan like?” – there is an index to all the songs in this series 

“Lucille” was record by Little Richard in late 1956 or early 1957 and became an instant hit getting to the top of the Billboard R&B chart, number 10 in the UK pop chart, and 21 in the US pop chart.   It was supposedly written by Albert Collins and Little Richard – although there is some contention about this and there is also the suggestion that Albert Collins wrote it and Little Richard bought 50% of the royalties from him.

The problem here is “who is Albert Collins?”  This is certainly not the blues guitarist Albert Collins – and I have no information on this composer at all beyond the suggestion that he wrote this song and that maybe he spent time in prison.

Lucille, you won’t do your sister’s will?
Oh, Lucille, you won’t do your sister’s will?
You ran off and married, but I love you still.

Lucille, please, come back where you belong.
Lucille, please, come back where you belong.
I been good to you, baby, please, don’t leave me alone.

I woke up this morning, Lucille was not in sight.
I asked my friends about her but all their lips were tight.
Lucille, please, come back where you belong.
I been good to you, baby, please, don’t leave me alone.

However what is sometimes forgotten, and what makes the claims about who wrote it more confusing, is that the song is actually based around another Little Richard composition “Directly From My Heart to You” recorded by Little Richard in 1955 for an album, but then dropped from the LP and simply released as a B side on a single.

And here I am going to divert (just because I can, and because we know that Bob did go to Frank Zappa and suggest they make an album together) I’m going to include a tribute version to this song by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, not least because I get so few opportunities to slip Zappa into this blog.

Direct
Directly from my heart to you
Direct
Directly from my heart to you
Oh, you know that I love you
That’s why I feel so blue
Oh, I pray
Our love would last away
I pray
That our love would last away
Yeah, we’d be so happy together
But you’re so far away
Well, I need
(Oh, baby, need you baby)
I need you by my side
Well, I need
Yes, I need you by my side
Oh, I’d loved you little darlin’
Your love I could never hide

In a Rolling Stone interview in 1970, Little Richard said of Lucille “I don’t know what inspired me to write it, it may have been the rhythm.”   And that would seem reasonable since the opening line doesn’t actually seem to make any sense, given that the sister doesn’t get involved in the song from there on in.

In an interview in 1999 interview for Mojo Little Richard added a little more, saying, “The effects and rhythms you hear on my songs, I got ’em from the trains that passed by my house. Like ‘Lucille’ came from a train – Dadas-dada-dada-dada, I got that from the train.”

And we know that Bob has a fascination with trains too, fascinated by the blues men who jumped the trains for a free ride to the next town, riding the mail train and supposedly writing the whole of John Wesley Harding on a train.  (You also might want to look back to Larry’s article on Dylan, depersonalisation, planes and trains).

At the time of the recording Little Richard was one of the top selling songwriters and performers, and it is reported that in 1956 and 1957 alone over 32 million copies of songs written by him were sold.

Indeed “Lucille” was recorded by and became a hit for The Everly Brothers who managed to squeeze most of the energy out of the song (which was odd since it was the energy that made it work) but still had a hit.

Of course in one of his most famously quotable quotes, Bob Dylan once said, “I don’t think I’d even started out without listening to Little Richard” – one of a number of tributes he has slipped into the commentaries when talking about his musical background.  And Little Richard has also spoken of his love for Dylan and his music…

“Bob Dylan is my brother. I love him same as Bobby Darin is my baby. I feel Bob Dylan is my blood brother. I believe if I didn’t have a place to stay, Bob Dylan would buy me a house. He sat by my bed; he didn’t move for hours. I was in pain that medicine couldn’t stop. My tongue was cut out, leg all tore up, bladder punctured. I was supposed to be dead. Six feet under. God resurrected me; that’s the reason I have to tell the world about it.”
– Little Richard (to John Waters, 1987)

It has also been reported that Bob Dylan played Little Richard songs on the piano while at high school while in his high school year book he is reported to have written that his goal in life was “To join Little Richard”.

So what did this song mean to Bob?

Certainly the energy is infectious as is the piano playing – endlessly hitting the chords twice on every beat so you get the same chord played eight times to a bar – except occasionally Little Richard then plays the chords as triplets (he does it at the start and near the end) so instead of getting four beats to the bar with the chord played eight times you get four beats to the bar with the chord played 12 times.   A very unusual effect that adds to the sense of speed and urgency.

And there are those meaningless words.

Lucille, you won’t do your sister’s will?
Oh, Lucille, you won’t do your sister’s will?
You ran off and married, but I love you still.

And we are left thinking simply, “What????????”

It is the sheer incomprehensibility of this combined with the excitement of the vocals and the pounding of the piano with its diversion into triplets that makes this simple song so incredibly powerful and all-encompassing, leaving the listener who appreciates it simply needing to play it over and over and over and over.

Plus one more thing: it was different.  In fact very, very different.  Below is a list of the 20 biggest selling singles in the US in 1957

1 Elvis Presley Heartbreak Hotel
2 Elvis Presley Don’t Be Cruel
3 Nelson Riddle Lisbon Antigua
4 Platters My Prayer
5 Gogi Grant The Wayward Wind
6 Les Baxter The Poor People Of Paris
7 Doris Day Whatever Will Be Will Be (Que Sera Sera)
8 Elvis Presley Hound Dog
9 Dean Martin Memories Are Made Of This
10 Kay Starr Rock And Roll Waltz
11 Morris Stoloff Moonglow And Theme From “Picnic”
12 Platters The Great Pretender
13 Pat Boone I Almost Lost My Mind
14 Elvis Presley I Want You, I Need You, I Love You
15 Elvis Presley Love Me Tender
16 Perry Como Hot Diggity
17 Eddie Heywood and Hugo Winterhalter Canadian Sunset
18 Carl Perkins Blue Suede Shoes
19 Jim Lowe The Green Door
20 Four Lads No, Not Much

When you look at that list what else is there to excite a hot blooded teenager?  Only two songs in that list of 20 could be possible rivals to Little Richard’s approach to music – “Hound Dog” and “Blue Suede Shoes”.  But Little Richard went so much further.

Of course Bob worshipped Little Richard.  In this style of music, who else was there?

What else is here?

An index to our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page.  You can also see details of our main sections on this site at the top of this page under the picture.

There is an alphabetic index to the 550+ Dylan compositions reviewed on the site which you will find it here.  There are also 500+ other articles on different issues relating to Dylan.  The other subject areas are also shown at the top under the picture.

We also have a discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook which mostly relates to Bob Dylan today.  Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link 

And please do note   The Bob Dylan Project, which lists every Dylan song in alphabetical order, and has links to licensed recordings and performances by Dylan and by other artists, is starting to link back to our reviews.

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