Lucky Millinder‘s version of the classic country hit “Chew Tobacco Rag” could easily have been included on my Gusto cassette King compilation, Country Tunes Done R&B:
Billboard‘s review in the April 21, 1951 edition was very optimistic about the single’s sales prospects:
The expectorating special from the country serves a worthy cause for Millinder as his crew sets up a big rocking beat for the fine John Carol and ensemble shouts. First big band item in some time that could bust out for big returns.
“Chew Tobacco Rag” Lucky Millinder 1951
That big rocking beat, by the way, courtesy of Ed Shaughnessy, future long-time drummer for Doc Severinson’s ‘Tonight Show’ Orchestra who developed his jazz chops drumming for such artists as Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, Oliver Nelson, Gene Ammons, and Cal Tjader, among many others.
WFMU’s Beware of the Blog points out that Zeb Turner’s version of this popular tune released on King made it to the Top Ten:
What was 1951’s loopiest and most contagious hillbilly novelty song? Judging by the number of cover versions it spawned, it had to be Chew Tobacco Rag, written and originally recorded by Texan Billy Briggs for the Imperial label. Briggs’ version never managed to chart, but Zeb Turner’s version, released on King, made it all the way to within spitting distance of topping the charts, finally losing momentum at #8.
Check out the 25 or so cover versions that you can preview here in one place.
Not uncommon for Columbia to acquire regional hits and then re-market them
Meanwhile, someone would throw down $200 in 2011 for an original King 45.