Why Don’t You Do Right?
Why Don’t You Do Right? (Kansas Joe McCoy)
“Why Don’t You Do Right?” first appeared in 1936 as “The Weed Smoker’s Dream”, composed by McCoy and recorded by his band, the Harlem Hamfats. The song was subtitled “Why Don’t You Do Now” on the original release. McCoy later rewrote the song, refining the composition and changing the lyrics entirely. The new tune was titled “Why Don’t You Do Right?” and was recorded by Lil Green in 1941 (with guitar played by Big Bill Broonzy). The recording was an early jazz and blues hit.
Peggy Lee often stated that Green’s recording was extremely influential to her music. In a 1984 interview she said “I was and am a fan of Lil Green, a great old blues singer, and Lil recorded it. I used to play that record over and over in my dressing room, which was next door to Benny’s (Goodman). Finally he said, ‘You obviously like that song.’ I said ‘Oh, I love it.’ He said ‘Would you like me to have an arrangement made of it?’ I said, ‘I’d love that,’ and he did.”
Benny Goodman and his Orchestra, vocal: Peggy Lee
Recorded on 27 July 1942 and issued on Columbia 36652, c/w “Six Flats Unfurnished” — singles chart success: #4 peak, Billboard — reissued in 1947 on Columbia 38198, c/w “Somebody Else Is Taking My Place”
from Stage Door Canteen (1943)
Weed Smoker’s Dream (Kansas Joe McCoy, Herb Morand)
The Harlem Hamfats — issued in 1936 on the single Vocalion V.1005, c/w “Let Your Linen Hang Low”* — The label gives the full title of the song as “Weed Smoker’s Dream (Why don’t you do now),” and credits the songwriting to “McCoy, Morand,” which would be Harlem Hamfats members Kansas Joe McCoy and Herb Morand.
In 1941, Lil Green and Big Bill Broonzy recorded a modified version of the song titled “Why Don’t You Do Right,” credited solely to Kansas Joe McCoy, with a radically altered lyric. It’s not clear why Herb Morand is credited as co-songwriter of “Weed Smoker’s Dream,” but not of “Why Don’t You Do Right.”
Despite their name, the Hamfats were based in Chicago, and were put together by record producer and entrepreneur J. Mayo Williams simply for the purpose of making records – perhaps the first group to be so created. None of the members of the band were actually from New York. “Kansas” Joe McCoy (guitar, vocals) and his brother “Papa” Charlie McCoy (guitar, mandolin) were from Mississippi; Herb Morand (trumpet, vocals), John Lindsay (bass), and Odell Rand (clarinet) were from New Orleans; Horace Malcolm (piano), Freddie Flynn (drums) and Pearlis Williams (drums) were from Chicago.
- “Weed Smoker’s Dream” lyric, transcribed by doc on 29 December 2015
Additional recordings of “Why Don’t You Do Right?”
Peggy Lee with the Dave Barbour Quartet
This Snader telescription seems to bear the copyright date 1952, but Wild Realm Reviews dates it 1951. Nice solos on the breaks, first by Barbour on guitar, then by the piano player, whose name I don’t know. Lee and Barbour were married from 1943 to 1951. This version includes some lyrics omitted in the 1942 Benny Goodman arrangement.
Mark Murphy — issued in August 1962 on the single Riverside (US) R-4526, backed with “Fly Me to the Moon(In Other Words)” — In the UK, under the title “Why Don’t You Do Right (Get Me Some Money Too!) according to 45cat.com, it was issued on Riverside (UK) 106908 RIF, with the sides reversed
Amy Irving as Jessica Rabbit in the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)
(below) with preceding action; performance begins at 51 seconds
Jackie Haydamacha — 2006
Rasputina — from their debut album Thanks for the Ether, released in 1996
Rasputina is a cello-driven band based in New York that is renowned for their unconventional and quirky music style as well as their fascination with historical allegories and fashion, especially those pertaining to the Victorian era.The group is fronted by cellist/vocalist Melora Creager, who also writes all of the lyrics and creates art for the band’s albums, singles, and website.
In 1989, Creager, wanting to form an all-cello band, placed an ad to find members. Julia Kent responded and the two formed the Traveling Ladies’ Cello Society as a duo. Creager also toured with Nirvana after released In Utero. In 1991 (their official website claims “1891”), Creager and Kent expanded the group with members who attended the same nanny school in Manhattan (which wasn’t known until post-formation). They were then renamed “Rasputina” after one of Creager’s song. The group played shows and became a local favorite in NYC. Columbia Records’ A&R representative Jimmy Boyle saw the group perform at a festival, and they were then signed to the label.
Additional recordings of “Weed Smoker’s Dream”
Hugh Laurie, featuring vocalist Gaby Moreno — from the 2013 Laurie album Didn’t It Rain
Live on the Queen Mary, 2013
* On Vocalion V.1005, the flip-side of “Weed Smoker’s Dream” is “Let Your Linen Hang Low,” which is credited on the label to Rosetta Howard & Hamfoot Ham (vocals), with the Harlem Hamfats. The Wikipedia page on Kansas Joe McCoy says, under Pseudonyms:
McCoy also performed and recorded under the names Bill Wither, Georgia Pine Boy, Hallelujah Joe, Big Joe McCoy and His Washboard Band, and the Mississippi Mudder. He also used the names Hamfoot Ham, Hillbilly Plowboy, and Mud Dauber Joe.