Alvin Robinson: Down Home Girl (1964)

 |   |  1 min read

Alvin Robinson: Down Home Girl (1964)

When the Beatles and the Stones covered songs by black American artists on their early albums and championed Motown soul (Beatles) and Chicago blues singers (Stones) they undoubtedly drew attention to the genius which many locals had overlooked.

The Stones' early shows and albums were stacked with songs by Chuck Berry (Come On, their first single, and Down the Apiece, Around and Around, Carol, Route 66 and You Can't Catch Me), Howlin' Wolf (Little Red Rooster), Muddy Waters (I Just Want to Make Love to You, I Got My Mojo Working, Hoochie Coochie Man) and Bo Diddley (Roadrunner, Cops and Robbers, Mona).

And there were some even more obscure names for American and British audiences -- like Alvin Robinson, a New Orleans singer-songwriter and session guitarist whose Down Home Girl the Stones covered.

Keith Richards later said, "Back in the Five By Five [EP] days when we were recording at Chess in Chicago and RCA in Hollywood we used to go down to the local record stores, buy up a whole bunch of soul singles, sit down by the record player and learn 'em: things like Oh Baby We Got a Good Thing Goin', Down Home Girl and lots of old Otis Redding stuff, and then record 'em as quickly as possible."

Unfortuntaly their championing of these black artists didn't really help Robinson whose Down Home Girl sounded like it was filled with the coded language of New Orleans which was unfamiliar to many in the Stones audence: What did it mean "every time I kiss you girl, it tastes like pork and beans"? Is that a good thing?

And "Don't you know that dress you wear was made out of fibre glass"?

Or "I'm gonna watch you do the second line with an umbrella in your hand"?

When you were 14 or 15 this was strange stuff. Would even be to kids of that age today.

Robinson's lyrics however ooze sensuality which was universal ("Every time you move like that I got to go to Sunday Mass", Oh I get that.

Oddly enough Down Home Girl was on the b-side of Robinson's Fever single and in the UK later that was his preferred song in clubs. But Alvin "Shine" Robinson was never destined to be more than an interesting footnote in the Stones' acknowledgement of black artists, although he made a living as a guitarist and was on Dr John's Gumbo album.

There is an excellent and on-going reassessment of Robinson here, a man Jerry Lieber put alongside Ray Charles and James Brown.

And the Stones did a pretty good version of Down Home Girl which appeared on this album in New Zealand. I guess Jagger knew what a "second line" was.

He certainly seemed to understand "gonna watch the water roll on, down your velvet skin".

For more oddities, one-offs or songs with an interesting backstory use the RSS feed for daily updates, and check the massive back-catalogue at From the Vaults.

Share It

Your Comments

Paul Rowe - May 11, 2011

Love this track, strange to find a connection between Old Crow Medicine Show and the Stones. The Stones played it at Hyde Park the day after Brian Jones died too.

I googled the "second line", as that was a mystery to me too! (finding this song led me to the Red Bird label, which featured the great girl groups like the Shangri-Las - I love the trail of breadcrumbs that is music sometimes)

I'm convinced that Jagger is underrated as a soul singer, he seems to have lifted his style straight from Don Coay, whose Mercy Mercy the Stones played through the 60s and 70s. his two mid-60s records are pretty good.

post a comment

More from this section   From the Vaults articles index

The Beatles: Love You To (1966)

The Beatles: Love You To (1966)

After having listened through to all George Harrison's solo albums and writing about them, one conclusion is paramount. That for all that his lyrics could sometimes be sermonising, trite, worthy or... > Read more

Grady Martin and the Slew Foot Five: Bimbo (1954)

Grady Martin and the Slew Foot Five: Bimbo (1954)

Having your own website like this is to some extent a vanity project. And it also allows for some personal indulgences, like posting this throwaway by the great Grady Martin. People of certain... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

BABYSITTERS ANGRY AT TEACHERS TAKING THEIR JOBS

BABYSITTERS ANGRY AT TEACHERS TAKING THEIR JOBS

 The announcement by the government that some schools will be able to open soon and parents could choose whether their children can attend has drawn sharp rebukes from various teachers'... > Read more

MILES DAVIS : SKETCHES OF SPAIN, CONSIDERED (1960): Jazz at the interface of classical music

MILES DAVIS : SKETCHES OF SPAIN, CONSIDERED (1960): Jazz at the interface of classical music

When Miles Davis entered Columbia Records’ New York studio in November 1959 with composer/arranger Gil Evans and producer Teo Macero to record the material for the album Sketches of Spain,... > Read more