Wilson Pickett – Hey Jude

It’s rare that I post a cover of a Beatles song but this one is worth it. This song was a groundbreaker in the world of R&B and Soul because of the song selection and Duane Allman. This is a great performance of a great song. For me, it’s up there with Joe Cockers With A Little Help from My Friends as one of the best Beatle cover versions.

Duane Allman was working at Muscle Shoals playing on records in 1968. He played on some Clarence Carter records and then in walked Wilson Pickett. The problem was they had no song for Pickett to sing at the booked sessions. Duane Allman brought up Hey Jude to cover in front of Pickett and Rick Hall the producer.

Wilson Pickett and Rick Hall said no they didn’t want to cover the song. Hall and Pickett had objections that the song was currently moving up the charts and  the length of the song made getting it played on the radio almost impossible if you were not the Beatles,

Rick Hall told Allman that it didn’t make sense…the Beatles were the biggest band in the world and their version was clearly going to number 1. He told Allman it would be crazy to do it. Allman shook his head and said no it wouldn’t be crazy. Yes, he said the Beatles are the biggest band in the world and yes it will hit number 1 but that is the reason we should do it. He said just think of the attention we will get having a black artist cover this new Beatle song. Hall thought about it and soon agreed with Allman.

Rick Hall: ‘Their single’s gonna be number one. I mean, this is the biggest group in the world! And Duane said, ‘That’s exactly why we should do it — because [the Beatles single] will be Number one and they’re so big. The fact that we would cut the song with a black artist will get so much attention, it’ll be an automatic smash.’ That made all the sense in the world to me. So I said, ‘Well, okay. Let’s do it.’”

Pickett was not as easy to persuade.  Allman was firm but gentle with Pickett and finally, Wilson relented and he recorded it. It turned out to be an R&B classic. The head-turner was when Pickett started to scream and in came this electric slide guitar of Allman. At that point, you didn’t hear much electric slide on records outside of the blues. After this record, R&B and soul producers started to bring in more rock guitars to compliment what they had.

This record changed Allman’s career in ways he couldn’t have known. One of Duane’s guitar heroes heard this version and called Atlantic records (Wilson’s record label) and asked who is that guitar player? I want to know now. That guitar player who asked was Eric Clapton.

Later when Clapton was recording the Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs album his producer Tom Dowd asked him if he would mind if Duane Allman dropped by and watch him play. Clapton turned and confirmed that Allman was the guitar player on Pickett’s Hey Jude and when Dowd said yes…Clapton said yes tell him to come by because I want to see HIM play. Allman would end up playing and contributing to most of the Layla album.

The song peaked at #23 in the Billboard 100 and #13 in the R&B Charts in 1969. The rhythm guitar player in Muscle Shoals Jimmy Johnson later credited Allman’s performance on Wilson Pickett’s album Hey Jude as the beginning of Southern Rock. This was recorded a few months before the Allman Brothers formed.

Eric Clapton: “I remember hearing ‘Hey Jude’ by Wilson Pickett and calling either Ahmet Ertegun or Tom Dowd and saying, ‘Who’s that guitar player? To this day, I’ve never heard better rock guitar playing on an R&B record. It’s the best.”

Wilson Pickett: “He stood right in front of me, as though he was playing every note I was singing, and he was watching me as I sang, and as I screamed, he was screaming with his guitar.”

As a Beatle fan…the ironic thing about this song is that George and Paul got into a big disagreement with the Beatle version. George wanted to add guitar fills in between lines to echo them…that is what Duane Allman did in this version.

Hey Jude

Hey Jude, don’t make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember to let her into your heart,
Then you can start to make it better.

Hey Jude, don’t be afraid
You were made to go out and get her
The minute you let her under your skin,
Then you begin to make it better

And anytime you feel the pain, hey Jude, refrain,
Don’t carry the world upon your shoulders
For well you know that it’s a fool who plays it cool
By making his world a little colder

Hey Jude, don’t let me down
You have found her, now go and get her
Remember to let her into your heart,
Then you can start to make it better

So let it out and let it in, hey Jude, begin
You’re waiting for someone to perform with
And don’t you know that it’s just you, hey Jude, you’ll do
The movement you need is on your shoulder

Hey Jude, don’t make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember to let her under your skin,
Then you’ll begin to make it
Better better better better better better, (make it Jude) ooh

Na na na nananana, nananana, hey Jude (Repeat)

Yeah, yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah

Ju- Jude-y Jude-y Jude-y Jude-y Jude-y oow-wow


Author: Badfinger (Max)

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

41 thoughts on “Wilson Pickett – Hey Jude”

  1. Never heard this before. I’m probably at odds with everyone else – I’m not so sure this works. Wilson Pickett has such a distinctive voice and style. The Beatles likewise, I guess. 😉
    Both are so instantly identifiable in their own right, I just found it a little bit of a confusing combination.

    But then … it WAS successful, and Duane did alright out of it, so what do I know?! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh that is fair. What I liked about it is that it probably introduced the Beatles to a bigger audience and Wilson made his own thing out of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d never heard it before, it’s not bad (now keep in mind, I am in the minority who do not find the Beatles version to be a high point in their career)… I think the horns are a wee bit overpowering, but his vocals are good and Allman’s guitar sounds nice . A local magazine columnist – old White guy – wrote about 2 years back about Pickett… he played in a small club in the 60s here, in the “black” part of town, but the columnist was a fan and went… got a lot of sideways looks, but he went up to Pickett after and complimented him… at first Wilson was a bit “yeah, whatever White guy” but when they actually got to talking and the writer showed he did know blues music and Pickett’s catalog, they hit it off…Pickett came over to his house and they drank and jammed most of the night!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That is a cool story. From what I read…he was not the nicest guy at first but he did warm up to people. He could be very standoffish to people.
      He loved Allman after this and called him Skyman and then people started to mix his other nickname “dog” with sky….
      I’ve heard two things…he called him skyman because of a: becasue Duane was always high or b: because of the way he played.
      This recording really made his career in a way aside from the Allmans.

      I did like what he did with the song.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s a great rendition I had heard before but frankly forgotten about. To start with, I dig Wilson Picket. In this case, his soulful and powerful vocal delivery combined with Duane Allman’s guitar-playing make for a compelling version. Just like Joe Cocker’s rendition of With a “Little Help From My Friends,” I would call it a remake rather than just a cover. Both artists truly made these songs their own!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Watch it buddy! LOL…no I love this. You can’t compare them because they are apples and oranges. Pickett did a great job on this…his voice is so rich.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I don’t think Allman was playing slide in that last part of the song. It sounds like a regular solo, complete with bends and hammer ons and whatever. No matter what he’s doing, this is a killer arrangement and I’ve always liked it better than the original. And yes, Paul should have let George add the fills…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know the part you are talking about…I know he switched up some while playing but yea he might not have. The book I currently have says he did play it but it could be wrong.
      I was watching a video of the Allmans at the Fillmore East (maybe Statesboro Blues) I believe and Duane would play a great slide piece and then switch up into playing regular. I wonder if he was in open E or standard tuning?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s possible that he was using a hybrid, where he was using the slide sometimes. He wore the slide on his ring finger, which would make things harder if he was switching back and forth. I’ve seen George Harrison and Lee Ritenour do that, and they wear their slide on the pinky. Be nice to see video of him playing to see what he’s doing.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Unfortunately there is not much video on him. There is one show I wish they would release the video…that is the 1970 Atlanta Pop Festival. I’ve seen a few grainy clips…they have both sets they did. They did release Hendrix there I believe.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Hey John…. I found this… on his tuning… He usually played slide in open tunings, most often open E (low to high, E B E G# B E) and occasionally open A (E A E A C# E). He also played slide in standard tuning on songs such as “Dreams” and “Mountain Jam.” In the early days, Duane would re-tune his gold-top Gibson Les Paul between songs in order to play slide.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. When I’ve played on limited times I’ve played in E and Open G… Open G I know the best because of playing so many Stones songs in that tunning. I never mastered slide though.
        I know some to play in standard tuning…it’s a lot of work

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh yea…that is what I did…I would ditch the low E String. When you get that tuning down…you can play a huge percentage of their songs. Like you said….some songs just don’t work without it. Brown Sugar is one example.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. I look at the apples and oranges taste analogy- yes, tough to compare, but the pick of the crop is still the ‘Original Classic Recipe;’ simple, spare, classic from the get-go. I do enjoy the runner-up Picket offering, but as Dave says, and I agree- for my tastes the chef should’ve gone lighter on the horns.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree…I would take the original of course… I do think it shows the flexibility of Beatles songs… solid foundation and withstands what is thrown at it.
      Yes they threw horns at too many things during that time.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. This latest one I did with Andy I prerecorded it as Andy could only fit me in at 5pm that day. I’m thinking I may do more of it this way as it’s easier to set something up with someone and trying to find a time to go live. Live is fun with people interacting and what not but for me its easier.
        Andy I talked to on a Wednesday and was going to post it the following week but I screwed up the date and it was posted the next day lol…
        Rookie move man…..lol

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Lol… I will check it out dude… now a lot of my honey do jobs are over… plus the air unit deal…. So I’m ready

        Liked by 2 people

  6. How did I miss this one. It brought tears to my eyes, listening to how good this song is. You’ll have me a rabid Duane Allman fan yet. He has that empath connection with the music when he plays, just like Robbie Robertson and Eric Clapton.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know Lisa…when I wrote it I was wondering what you would think of it…when you missed it I knew I would link it later on….I appreciate you taking the time to read it.

      Liked by 1 person

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