|B-side "Sugar Mama Blues"|
Format 10-inch 78 rpm
|Released 1937 (1937)|
|Recorded Aurora, Illinois, May 5, 1937|
"Good Morning, School Girl" is a blues standard which has been identified as an influential blues song. Pre-war Chicago blues vocalist and harmonica pioneer John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson first recorded it in 1937. Subsequently, a variety of artists have recorded versions of the song, usually calling it "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl".
Sonny Boy Williamson I recorded "Good Morning, School Girl" in 1937 during his first recording session for Bluebird Records. The song is an uptempo blues with an irregular number of bars. Although identified with Chicago blues, a write-up in the Blues Hall of Fame notes "it was a product of Sonny Boy’s west Tennessee roots and his pre-Chicago ensemble work". The melody has been traced to “Back and Side Blues”, a 1934 blues song recorded by Son Bonds. "Good Morning, School Girl" features Williamson's vocal and harmonica with accompaniment by Big Joe Williams and Robert Lee McCoy (also known as Robert Nighthawk) on guitars.
In October 1948, Leroy Dallas recorded a version of the song which he entitled "Good Morning Blues". It was released as a single on Sittin' In With Records. The Texas bluesman Smokey Hogg recorded his version, calling it "Little School Girl". In 1950, the song reached number five on the Billboard R&B chart. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, several versions of "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" were recorded as acoustic country-style blues, including versions by John Lee Hooker, Lightnin' Hopkins, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Muddy Waters and Doctor Ross. In 1965, Junior Wells with Buddy Guy recorded it as a Chicago blues, with a distinctive guitar and bass line, for their influential Hoodoo Man Blues album. McDowell included a 1971 performance on Live in New York and in 1978, Muddy Waters recorded an updated rendition for I'm Ready.
Don and Bob/Yardbirds version
In 1961, Don Level and Bob Love, as the rhythm and blues duo "Don and Bob", recorded a different version of "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" for Argo Records, a Chess subsidiary. Although they use the phrase "good morning little schoolgirl", the song has different chord changes and lyrics, including references to popular dance styles of the time. When the Yardbirds were looking for a song to follow up to their first single, "I Wish You Would", they chose the Don and Bob tune. The group's guitarist Eric Clapton explained in an early interview:
[The Yardbirds were] working about every single night of the week. Trouble was finding new material for a disc. We remembered this 'Good Morning Little School Girl' from a rather obscure R and B artiste—a friend of ours had it on a long-player. So we rushed in and recorded it.
The single was released on October 20, 1964, in the UK, where it reached number 49 in the singles chart. Epic Records, the Yardbirds' American label, did not issue the single in the US, but in 1965 included the song on their first American album, For Your Love. Later, in his autobiography, Clapton described the early recordings:
[They] sounded pretty lame. We just sounded young and white, and even though our second single, a cover of a rock version of 'Good Morning Little Schoolgirl', sounded much better, I felt just that we were falling short of the mark in some way. This was not something I felt just about the Yardbirds, but about other bands that I admired, like Manfred Mann, the Moody Blues, and the Animals, all of whom were far better live than they were on recordings.
The group recorded a live version at the Marquee Club in London, which was released on the British debut album, Five Live Yardbirds, in December 1964. On the live version, Clapton and bassist Paul Samwell-Smith provided the vocals instead of lead singer Keith Relf. The Yardbirds single version was credited to "Demarais" or "H.G. Demarais" (Dee Marais, a Shreveport, Louisiana, record label owner/distributor and business associate of Leonard Chess), although some later reissues list Sonny Boy Williamson as the songwriter. Album credits for live version are either listed as Demarais or "Level–Love".
Recognition and legacy
In 1990, Sonny Boy Williamson I's "Good Morning, School Girl" was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in the "Classics of Blues Recordings – Single or Album Track" category. Numerous artists have recorded or performed the song through the years, such as: Chuck Berry, Paul Butterfield, Devil In A Woodpile, Grateful Dead, Junior Wells, Gov't Mule, Jonny Lang, Huey Lewis and the News, Van Morrison, Paul Rodgers with Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart, Taj Mahal, Ten Years After, the Derek Trucks Band, Johnny Winter, Motörhead (live only), and Widespread Panic. The Allman Brothers Band played it in the first set of their final concert at the Beacon Theater in New York on October 28, 2014.