Song Of The Day 6/23/2014: Shorty Long - "Chantilly Lace"

Black Music Month/Motown Week: Shorty Long -- the estate of whom you'd think Fatboy Slim would owe some intellectual property thank-you notes -- co-wrote some notable '60s R&B classics: "Function At the Junction," a hit for him, and "Devil With the Blue Dress On," a hit for Mitch Ryder. He was the kind of quirky artist Motown certainly wasn't commonly known for, but existed well within the catacombs of their recording studios if you called his name long enough. His moment in the klieg lights was "Here Comes the Judge," a succinct description of duces tecum in the American judicial system, heavily informed by its use in a skit on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In which featured a perpetually out-of-sync judge flailing around in efforts to restore order to his courtroom. The skit was so quotable that two weeks after Long's version came out, a gentleman with the brilliant name Pigmeat Markham released an entirely separate song called "Here Comes the Judge," also to some measure of success. You'd think there'd be a lawsuit somewhere in the middle of all this, but people got along better back then.

Long handled a couple of covers for Motown, especially of contemporary hits that were way outside the label's most familiar commercial scope. His final single before his drowning death in 1969 was a stab at Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale," and in 1967 he gave "Chantilly Lace" his best shot, even though hearing it from anyone else besides The Big Bopper kind of feels like artistic adultery. But if you can't adulterate in rock and roll, you're left with just one working hour a day, most of it just moving amps around.

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