"See See Rider", also known as "C.C. Rider" or "See See Rider Blues" or "Easy Rider" is a popular American 12-bar blues" song. It was first recorded by Gertrude "Ma" Rainey in 1924, and since then has been recorded by many other artists.
The song uses mostly traditional blues lyrics to tell the story of an unfaithful lover, commonly called easy riders: "See See rider, see what you have done," making a play on the word see and the sound of easy.
|"See See Rider"|
|Single by The Animals|
|from the album Animalization|
|A-side||"Help Me Girl" (UK)|
|B-side||"She'll Return It" (USA)|
|Genre||R&B, rock, soul, hard rock|
|Length||4:00 (album), 2:51 (single)|
|The Animals singles chronology|
The song is generally regarded as being traditional in origin. Ma Rainey's version became popular during 1925, as "See See Rider Blues." It became one of the most famous of all blues songs, with well over 100 versions. It was recorded by Big Bill Broonzy, Mississippi John Hurt, Lead Belly, Lightnin' Hopkins, Peggy Lee and many others. Broonzy claimed that "when he was about 9 or 10" - that is, around 1908 - he had learned to play the blues from an itinerant songster named "See See Rider", "a former slave, who played a one-string fiddle.... one of the first singers of what would later be called the blues..."
In 1943, a version by Wee Bea Booze became a #1 hit on the Billboard "Harlem Hit Parade," precursor of the rhythm and blues chart. Some blues critics consider this to be the definitive version of the song.
A doo-wop version was recorded by Sonny Til and The Orioles in 1952. Later rocked-up hit versions were recorded by Chuck Willis (as "C.C. Rider," also a #1 R&B hit as well as a #12 pop hit, in 1957) and LaVern Baker (#9 R&B and #34 pop hit in 1963). Willis' version gave birth to the dance craze "The Stroll."
Other popular performances were recorded by Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels (as part of a medley entitled "Jenny Take a Ride!," #10 US pop hit in 1965) and The Animals (#10 US pop hit in 1966). The Animals' heavy version (featuring Eric Burdon's screaming) also reached #1 on the Canadian RPM chart, and #8 in Australia. It was the last single before the group disbanded in September 1966. The arrangement of the song was credited to band member Dave Rowberry.
Other renditions came from Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, The Who, The Everly Brothers, The Kingsmen, Charlie Rich, Ian & Sylvia,Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, Leon Thomas, Snooks Eaglin, John Fahey, Old Crow Medicine Show and many more. In later years, Presley regularly opened his performances with the song, such as was captured on his 1970 On Stage album and in his Aloha from Hawaii television special. Elvis's drummer Ronnie Tutt opened Elvis's version with a rolling drum riff followed by the band entering and Elvis's famous brass melody. Similarly, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band long had "C.C. Rider" as part of their "Detroit Medley" encore romp, which achieved significant visibility on the 1980 No Nukes live album.
Film director Martin Scorsese credited the song with stimulating his interest in music. He later said:
"One day, around 1958, I remember hearing something that was unlike anything I'd ever heard before...The music was demanding, "Listen to me!"...The song was called "See See Rider," which I already knew from the Chuck Willis cover version. The name of the singer was Lead Belly...I found an old Folkways record by Lead Belly...And I listened to it obsessively. Lead Belly's music opened something up for me. If I could have played guitar, really played it, I never would have become a filmmaker."
In 2004, the original Ma Rainey recording received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award.
The term "See See Rider" is usually taken as synonymous with "easy rider." In particular, in blues songs it often refers to a woman who had liberal sexual views, had been married more than once, or was skilled at sex. Although Ma Rainey's version seems on the face of it to refer to "See See Rider" as a man, one theory is that the term refers to a prostitute and in the lyric, "You made me love you, now your man done come," "your man" refers to the woman's pimp. So, rather than being directed to a male "easy rider," the song is in fact an admonition to a prostitute to give up her evil ways.
There are further theories:
- "Easy rider" was sometimes used to refer to the partner of a hypersexual woman who therefore does not have to work or pay for sex.
- Another incorrect theory is that the term "easy rider" sometimes originally referred to the guitar hung across the back of a travelling blues singer.
- Other confused sources indicate that 'C.C. Rider' refers to early 'Country Circuit' Riding Preachers who traveled on horseback into many towns that were without formal churches at the time.
- The Grateful Dead often played the songs "China Cat Sunflower" and "I Know You Rider" in succession, but this combination was referred to as "China>Rider" amongst Grateful Dead fans. The setlist entry "C.C. Rider" refers to the Grateful Dead's version of "C.C. Rider", sung by Bob Weir.