What’s in a name, you might ask? Well, for this song, that question comes up twice. First, the title…”Spo-dee-o-dee”? Second, the writer of the song…”Stick” McGhee? If you’re thinking there might be a story behind those questions, you’d be right.
Granville “Stick” McGhee was an early era R&B musician, which helped bridge the horn-driven sound of jump blues with the sparser sound of early rock ‘n roll. He got his nickname because as a child he used a stick to push his polio-stricken older brother around in a cart. The McGhee family must’ve had a penchant for nicknames, because the older brother, Walter, went by “Brownie” (of the famous blues duo Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee).
“Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee” was first recorded by McGhee on Harlem Records in 1947, but it was his 1949 recording on Atlantic Records for which he received wide acclaim. The song was the first big hit for Ahmet Ertigan’s fledgling label, and re-directed the label’s original focus from jazz toward R&B. The song itself, however, was written even earlier than 1947 while McGhee was still in the military during WWII. That version, so the story goes, was much less appropriate for public airplay. Thus, when it came time to record the song Stick substituted “spo-dee-o-dee” for the original four syllable off-color phrase (I’ll let you mentally run through your own list of possibilities).
So, again, what’s in a name? Well, research in the field of psychology has actually shown that nicknames convey a greater sense of fun and popularity when compared to proper given names. Considering the party-like atmosphere of this song, it’s no surprise that both the artist and the title contain a nickname. And the lyrics follow suit, as they keep coming back to the refrain:
“Wine, wine, wine, pass that bottle to me!”
The B-Side Growler version (check out our video below) couples these lyrics with an acoustic R&B shuffle…this song’s a lot of fun to play! We hope we have a chance to share it with you sometime in person! To see if the B-Side Growlers are playing nearby soon, check our Facebook page located here.
Guralnick, Peter. Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom. New York: Back Bay Books, 1999. 55-71. Print.
McNally, Dennis. On Highway 61: Music, Race and the Evolution of Cultural Freedom. Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint Press, 2014. 249-67. Print.
Mehrabian, Albert, and Marlena Piercy. “Differences In Positive And Negative Connotations Of Nicknames And Given Names.” Journal Of Social Psychology 133.5 (1993): 737-739. SocINDEX with Full Text. Web. 28 Feb. 2016.