Mountain – Mississippi Queen

There was a time that I wouldn’t listen to the song  because I was tired of it. Now after hearing it in a few movies…the love has come back. The guitar in this doesn’t mess around. There are not many bands…be it heavy metal, hard rock, or just rock bands that have such a vicious sound on guitar. Leslie West was a great guitar player who went for the throat.

Corky Laing (drummer) started working on this song with David Rea, who was a friend of the band and frequent songwriting partner…he and Mountain bass player Felix Pappalardi were in Ian & Sylvia’s band.

The reason Vicksburg is mentioned in the song is because Laing asked him if he knew any cities in the state…which Rea mentioned Vicksburg. Vicksburg is a small city on the Mississippi River known as the site of a famous Civil War battle in 1863.

The song peaked at #21 in the Billboard 100 in 1970…their highest charting single and only top 40 hit. The songwriters were Leslie West, Corky Laing, Felix Pappalardi, and David Rea.

Leslie West: When Corky (Laing, drummer) brought me the idea, it was a one-chord dance song. We got real high, took out a napkin, and I came up with the main riff and the chords. Then we fit the words over the sound.” Laing says of the song: “I was madly in love with The Band, and I decided to put a ‘Cripple Creek’ feel behind it. Later on, I told Levon Helm that I felt bad about ripping him off, but he said that he didn’t hear any similarity between the two songs, and that we didn’t owe them any money!

From Songfacts

The song is about a seductive woman who teaches the singer a thing or two about the ways of love, but with the success of “Proud Mary” a year earlier, it almost sounds like this could be another song about a riverboat. In 1976, the “Mississippi Queen” riverboat was put into service by the Delta Queen company, taking its last cruise in 2008.

This is one of the most famous cowbell songs of all time, but the band didn’t envision the instrument in the song. In a Songfacts interview with Leslie West, he explained: “The cowbell in the beginning was just in there because Felix wanted Corky to count the song off. So we used the cowbell to count it off – it wasn’t put in there on purpose. And it became the quintessential cowbell song.”

Mississippi is a special place for Leslie West not only because of this song, but because it’s where he had part of his leg amputated. On June 18, 2011, the day after playing a show at the Hard Rock Cafe in Biloxi, West’s right leg began to swell and he was taken to the emergency room in a Biloxi hospital, where it was amputated below the knee to save his life (West is diabetic). West told Songfacts: “When I play ‘Mississippi Queen’ now, I think about Jesus Christ. Of all places to lose my leg, it was Mississippi.”

TV, movie and video game uses of this song include:

The title of a episode of the anime series Cowboy Bebop
The Simpsons in the 1996 “Homerpalooza” episode
The Dukes of Hazzard movie in 2005
Guitar Hero III in 2007
Rock Band in 2007
The Expendables movie in 2010
Regular Show in “Weekend at Benson’s,” 2012

This was used in a popular commercial for Miller Genuine Draft beer where some guys traveling in a jungle open a bottle of the beer to magically freeze the body of water separating them from some lovely ladies who beckon.

This song got a music video for the first time on Aug 27, 2020, when Mountain posted a collage-style animated clip on YouTube.

Mississippi Queen

Mississippi Queen
You know what I mean
Mississippi Queen
She taught me everything

Went down around Vicksburg
Around Louisiana way
Where lived the Cajun Lady
Aboard the Mississippi Queen

You know she was a dancer
She moved better on wine

While the rest of them dudes were gettin’ their kicks
Boy, I beg your pardon, I was gettin’ mine

Mississippi Queen
If you know what I mean
Mississippi Queen
She taught me everything

This lady she asked me
If I would be her man
You know that I told her
I’d do what I can

To keep her lookin’ pretty
Buy her dresses that shine

While the rest of them dudes were makin’ their friends
Boy, I beg your pardon, I was loosin’ mine

You know she was a dancer
She moved better on wine

While the rest of them dudes were gettin’ their kicks
Boy, I beg your pardon, I was gettin’ mine

Yeah, Mississippi Queen

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

30 thoughts on “Mountain – Mississippi Queen”

  1. Not a terrible song but like you suggest, has been rather played to death on “classic rock” stations… I don’t hear a huge similarity to The Band but I guess if you listen carefully, there is a little bit. Good of Levon not to complain.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea I didn’t get the Band reference either…since I’ve been hearing it on movies I’ve started to like it again.


  2. Yes. This is quintessential macho swagger rock. I’m not saying that that’s necessarily a bad thing—I like Buckcherry, Guns and Roses and “classic” Aerosmith–but it can get old. And, yes, this song got really old. Too much of a staple of classic rock radio (and dare I say, too much cowbell). It’s a good song though. Mountain? I don’t know…I tried to listen to one or their albums and couldn’t get through it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was so tired of it and heard it in a few movies and it woke up my like for the song. More than anything his guitar…yea I’ve never explored Mountain at all. As wild as he was I am surprised he lived as long as he did.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t know anything about him except he was a “guitar god” in the early 70s. Mississippi Queen was an influential song and the guitar work is why, no doubt. It sounds like he may have got his act together after he lost his leg. I hope he got right with the Lord.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Moon was known to avoid him…if that tells you anything.
        Yes his guitar playing was great and so was his ego at that time…Lynyrd Skynyrd approached him to replace or fill in for Ed King but Leslie wanted it to be named “Lynyrd Skynyrd featuring Leslie West.” This was after their first three albums.

        They got Steve Gaines instead…they did the right thing.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. At one time, I had the idea of creating a concave guitar for the larger guitarist, and I was going to try and get Leslie to demonstrate it. The ads would say “Holton: Guitars For Guys With Guts!” Randy Bachman might be another good choice…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. That song definitely rocks! While I had been aware of Mountain, it was because of their Woodstock appearance. In fact, I previously featured “Southbound Train” as part of a series I did back in 2019 around the music festival’s 50th anniversary – another high energy rocker!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That we did! There’s been nothing to match the excitement of the Beatles’ explosion upon the American music scene at the beginning of 1964. I was only 9 years old, but still remember it vividly.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Jeff…I think it was more than music…it was part of your life at that time. In the 70s and 80s it was part of my life that we took seriously. I did catch the end of it…but yes seeing the Beatles explode would have been in a totally different league. Now it’s more of a commodity.

        Liked by 1 person

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