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“Down the Road Apiece” one of the best known and most played boogie woogie and blues tunes of all time. Amos Milburn’s version is the one most played by blues pianists all over the world. Listen to the recording below and your feet will start tapping for sure.
History: “Down the Road a Piece” is a boogie-woogie song written by Don Raye. In 1940, it was recorded by the Will Bradley Trio and became a top 10 hit in the closing months of the year. Called “a neat little amalgam of bluesy rhythm and vivid, catchy lyrics,” the song was subsequently recorded by a variety of jazz, blues, and rock artists.
“Down the Road a Piece” was recorded in 1940 by members of the Will Bradley/Ray McKinley Orchestra as the “Will Bradley Trio” (a misnomer as Bradley does not perform on the song, while a fourth, the song’s writer Don Raye, does). Three musicians are mentioned in the lyrics:
The drummer man’s a guy they call ‘Eight Beat Mack’
And you remember Doc and ol’ ‘Beat Me Daddy’ Slack
“Eight Beat Mack” refers to drummer Ray McKinley, “Doc” refers to bass player Doc Goldberg, and “Beat Me Daddy Slack” refers to pianist Freddie Slack (a reference to “Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar”, a hit recorded earlier in 1940 by Slack with the Bradley/McKinley Orchestra). Vocals for “Down the Road a Piece” were provided by McKinley and Raye.
Although the original lyrics were used by Harry Gibson and Stan Kenton, both in 1945 and the Glenn Miller Orchestra (led by Ray McKinley) in 1946, subsequent recordings of “Down the Road a Piece” usually changed the lyrics that referred to the musicians. Amos Milburn, who recorded the song in 1946, started the tradition by including the reference to “Eight Beat Mack”, but changing the next line to “You remember me doggin’ old Beat me Daddy Slack.” When Ella Mae Morse sang the song in the early 1950s, she deleted Doc and Slack from the lyrics and replaced them with “Sam and Spider-Finger Jack”, but kept the “Eight Beat Mack” reference, in spite of the fact that McKinley was not in the band, but Slack was. In 1956, Merrill Moore sang “Eight Beat Joe … Beat Me Daddy Moe”. Chuck Berry, who recorded the song in 1960, changed the lyrics further, removing “Eight Beat Mack” and replacing him with “Kicking McCoy”, and re-wrote much of the song. Berry’s version was copied by Manfred Mann in 1964, but the Rolling Stones in 1965 replaced Kicking McCoy with Charlie McCoy, probably a reference to Charlie Watts. Foghat, Brownsville Station (band), and Bruce Springsteen followed suit. Starting in the 1990s, however, most musicians began using the original 1940 lyrics.
In his autobiography, Henry Mancini recalled that “Down the Road a Piece” inspired his “Baby Elephant Walk” for the 1961 movie Hatari!: “I looked at the scene (elephants walking to the watering hole) several times and I thought, ‘Yeah, they’re walking eight to the bar’, and that brought something to mind, an old Will Bradley boogie-woogie number called ‘Down the Road a Piece’… Those little elephants were definitely walking boogie-woogie, eight to the bar. I wrote ‘Baby Elephant Walk’ as a result”.
A variety of artists have recorded “Down the Road a Piece”, sometimes with variations in the music. Some of these include: Chuck Berry, Brownsville Station, Foghat, Harry Gibson, Joe Grushecky & The Houserockers with Bruce Springsteen, Stan Kenton, Jerry Lee Lewis, Manfred Mann, Glenn Miller Orchestra, Amos Milburn, Merrill E. Moore, Ella Mae Morse, the Rolling Stones, and Chuck E. Weiss.