With his version of Mustang Sally, Wilson Pickett turned a boy R&B hit right into one of the defining soul song of the 60s.


Wilson Pickett was play a present at brand-new York’s Apollo Theatre in at an early stage 1966 when he heard his old Falcons bandmate Mack Rice performing the song Mustang Sally. Pickett asked for permission to document his own version and went ~ above to revolve what had been a minor R&B hit for Rice right into one that the specifying soul singles the the 60s. Rice, who was 82 once he passed away in 2016, stated he believed Pickett’s success was down to making a memorable crossover statement with “a great old funky song”.

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“What is the Mustang? I’ve never heard the it”

Mustang Sally’s origins dated to the time Rice went to the singer Della Reese in brand-new York and she told him she was reasoning of to buy a new Lincoln continent for her husband, drummer Calvin Shields, because that his birthday. Shields had actually wanted a Ford Mustang sports automobile instead.

The subject came up as soon as Rice took a drive v Shields. “Calvin was always talking about the Mustang car. What is the Mustang? I’ve never heard of it,’” Rice said Rock Cellar Magazine in 2012. “He looked over at this poster and said, ‘Hey, it is the Mustang!’ i said, ‘Oh shit, man, that automobile there? No, no, no, that too little for me!’ friend know, we’re supplied to driving huge cars in Detroit – we drive Cadillacs, Lincolns and Benzs. Ns said, ‘Man, that little shit? What room you gonna carry out with it – room you gonna drive in the by yourself?’”

“I wasn’t that knocked out”

When Rice returned to Detroit he mulled ~ above the popularity of the auto that had actually been presented at the 1964 world’s Fair and wrote a song that started life together Mustang Mama. The sang a version to Aretha Franklin, who finished up play piano on Rice’s very first demo of the song. As soon as Rice sang the chorus of “Rise, Sally, rise/Wipe her weeping eyes”, Franklin offered a brilliant item of advice, arguing he adjusted the heat to “Ride, Sally, ride”. “I wasn’t the knocked out on that myself, yet I agreed and also said, ‘Cool, cool,’” Rice recalled. Franklin had actually one last inspired suggestion: readjust the song’s title to Mustang Sally.

When Pickett recorded the song, in October 1966, it came to be a phenomenon – one that eventually made Rolling Stone’s perform of The 500 biggest Songs of all Time. He reduced his variation at call studios in Muscle Shoals, v producer stack Hall and also engineer Tom Dowd at the controls, and also members of the legendary The Swampers backing band in support.

Pickett to be joined through Memphis guitarist Chips Moman and also FAME regulars roger Hawkins ~ above drums, guitarist Jimmy Johnson, bassist Tommy Cogbill and keyboardist Dewey “Spooner” Oldham, that was himself a listed songwriter, v credits for songs such together I’m her Puppet and also Cry favor A baby under his belt.

“What if ns pretended ns was ~ above a Harley Davidson?”

There to be no plan for key-boards to it is in on the song, yet Oldham listened to the demo and cleared up a means he could add (and thereby gain paid). “With Rice’s demo, the an initial thing ns noticed was there was no keyboard on the record,” Oldham recalled in 2011. “I thought, What am i going to carry out that will work-related within that song? and also I just closed mine eyes because that a second, daydreaming, and said, ‘I wonder what it would sound prefer if i pretended ns was top top a Harley Davidson motorcycle and was driving with the studio, what would certainly that sound like?’ yes a little pause in that document where there’s not much going on, and also I carry out ‘rorp-rorp-rorp’ type of revving engine thing.”

When the musicians perfect recording the song, they every went as much as the control room to hear to a playback. Dowd started winding earlier the tape and, simply at that moment, disaster practically struck. The steel capstan hold the tape in place ricoched off and little splinters the tape went flying throughout the room. “We ruined my master!” cried Pickett. Dowd sent out them all out of the room and spent the next couple of hours patiently piecing the tape together, saving one of popular music’s best recordings.

Released by Atlantic, Mustang Sally struggle No.23 top top the Billboard charts on 10 December 1966, before peaking in ~ No.6 in January 1967 – the same year that Pickett had actually a hit with Stagger Lee – and also it remained a secure seller because that the remainder of the 20th century. The tune was later on covered by friend Guy, Los Lobos, Ken Booth, Hootie & The Blowfish and also even former footballer Vinnie Jones. Once it featured prominently in Alan Parker’s 1991 film, The Commitments, that earned Pickett a brand-new legion the fans.

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Pickett passed away in January 2006, after having seen Mustang Sally inducted into the Grammy room Of Fame.