The Origin of “C.C. Rider”

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Here on the BluesMobile I often tell ya origin stories. The roots of a rock song, the birth of a legend of the blues. Today: the story of “C.C. Rider.” The very first to call out the name was pioneering blues babe Ma Rainey. In 1924 she waxed a number called “See See Rider.” That’s S-e-e S-e-e. She wasn’t sayin’ a name, she was tellin’ you to look out. Ma Rainey was the first to record it, but those in the know figure the Wee Bea Booze version to be “the original one”. In all, there’s been over a hundred different versions of CC Rider recorded. Mitch Ryder, Lead Belly, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Elvis, the Everly Brothers. Over a hundred versions–and every version has it’s own interpretation. Some say C.C. is an Easy Rider, a good lover.  Others say C.C.’s a freeloader. Maybe it’s a train—the Colorado Central—or maybe someone who hitches a ride on those rails. Probably the most famous recording of “C.C. Rider” comes from Chuck Willis, a rock n’ roll pioneer known for comin’ up with a dance called the stroll. From 1956, here’s Chuck Willis…and “C.C. Rider.”


Here’s a rough list of some of the artists who’ve recorded “C.C. Rider” in one way or another:

Ma Rainey

Big Bill Broonzy

Lead Belly

Jelly Roll Morton

Wee Bea Booze

Lightnin’ Hopkins

Ray Charles

John Lee Hooker

Alexis Korner Skiffle Group

Odetta

Chuck Willis

Snookes Eaglin

Jimmy Smith

Jimmie Witherspoon

The Chamber Brothers

Janis Joplin

Ernestine Anderson

Freddie King

LaVern Baker

Peggy Lee

Clyde McPhatter

Lou Rawls

Ella Fitzgerald

Mississippi John Hurt

Alexis Korner

Lonnie Johnson

Joey Dee and the Starliters

Jimmy Reed

Donal Byrd

Victoria Spivey

Bobby Fuller Four

Cher

Everly Brothers

BB King

MItch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels

Joe Tex

The Animals

Otis Spann

Bobby Powell

Chuck Berry

Chuck Jackon and Maxine Brown

The Youngbloods

Champion Jack Dupree

The Electric Flag

Richie Havens

Gary Lewis and the Playboys

The Johnny Otis Show

Gary Davis

Elvis Presley

Jerry Lee Lewis

The Spencer Davis Group

Duke Ellington

Big Maybelle

Roy Buchanan

Carl Perkins

Grateful Dead

Robert Lockwood Jr.

Earl Klugh

Elvis Costello and Jerry Garcia

Guy Davis

Old Crow Medicine Show

Gaye Adegbalola/Roddy Barnes

Elmore James Jr.

Zora Young

Fats Domino

Bill Haley

Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry

Amos Milburn