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  1. #1

    Lyric Question re Shotgun by Jr. Walker

    As background: I grew up in Detroit in the Motown era, and I've seen many of the top acts live at various venues, including revue-type shows at the Michigan state fair.

    Shotgun by Jr. Walker and the All Stars is one of my many favorite Motown songs, despite the questionable storyline. To me the song seems to be a slightly sanitized gritty bluesy song about a woman shooting someone, along the lines of traditional blues songs like Frankie and Johnny, Betty and Dupree, and others. The lyrics talk about going downtown, getting a shotgun, breaking it down, loading it up, etc.

    BUT...here's the question (finally!): I swear he's singing "do the dirt, baby. Do the dirt now." Everybody says it's "do the jerk," referring to the dance that was in vogue at the time. That makes no sense whatsoever! Why would he suddenly start singing about a dance? "Do the dirt" is a phrase meaning "do the dirty deed." As a teen singing along to this, I sang the gritty version. I have seen Jr. Walker in concert and I could swear he sang "dirt."

    Over the years I have called the Motown museum, written a letter to the song's credited co-writer, Lawrence Horn, when he was in prison (in Maryland, as I recall, for hiring a hitman to murder his ex-wife!) and tried to get in touch with Berry Gordy, the other credited co-writer. The people at the museum said they "thought" the lyric was "do the jerk." I never heard from Horn or Gordy.

    Has anyone else ever heard this lyric as "do the dirt," or is it just me and my lower-class Detroit up upbringing? (I'm totally against gun violence, btw, I just like nitty gritty blues songs sometimes.)
    Last edited by JackNorth; 06-08-2019 at 11:31 AM. Reason: Spelling corrections

  2. #2
    Blimey I've always thought it was a dance.

  3. #3
    “While performing in his second home, the El Grotto Bar, Junior noticed teenage dancers bopping about, jerking their arms back and forth in a peculiar fashion. He asked them “What kind of junk is this? They was going across the floor like they was shooting. A girl looked at me and sais’ Man, that’ the shotgun, you better write a tune to that’. No sooner said than done. However when Berry Gordy heard it”he fell out and went to laughing!” Junior remembered. “Then he said ‘record it’.... And we went in and did it, and it come to be a great tune”.

    excerpt from booklet with the new 3CD release Jr Walker & the all stars - Walk In The Night, courtesy of Sharon Davis January 2019
    Last edited by MIKEW-UK; 06-08-2019 at 12:27 PM.

  4. #4
    The shotgun was also a dance, so that gives the context to the jerk being referred to as a dance.

    Jackie Lee's "The Shotgun and the Duck" combined two dances the "shotgun" and the "duck".

  5. #5
    Demonstration by dancers of The Shotgun / The Jerk......


  6. #6
    Jackie Lee's " The Jerk" was the inspiration for "Get Ready"...

  7. #7
    Let’s not overlook “Act like A Shotgun” by GC Cameron (or more accurately Willie Hutch)

    Last edited by MIKEW-UK; 06-08-2019 at 01:34 PM.

  8. #8
    The Miracles showing how the Jerk is done


  9. #9
    And the very first exponents of the Jerk......The Larks


  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by JackNorth View Post
    As background: I grew up in Detroit in the Motown era, and I've seen many of the top acts live at various venues, including revue-type shows at the Michigan state fair.

    Shotgun by Jr. Walker and the All Stars is one of my many favorite Motown songs, despite the questionable storyline. To me the song seems to be a slightly sanitized gritty bluesy song about a woman shooting someone, along the lines of traditional blues songs like Frankie and Johnny, Betty and Dupree, and others. The lyrics talk about going downtown, getting a shotgun, breaking it down, loading it up, etc.

    BUT...here's the question (finally!): I swear he's singing "do the dirt, baby. Do the dirt now." Everybody says it's "do the jerk," referring to the dance that was in vogue at the time. That makes no sense whatsoever! Why would he suddenly start singing about a dance? "Do the dirt" is a phrase meaning "do the dirty deed." As a teen singing along to this, I sang the gritty version. I have seen Jr. Walker in concert and I could swear he sang "dirt."

    Over the years I have called the Motown museum, written a letter to the song's credited co-writer, Lawrence Horn, when he was in prison (in Maryland, as I recall, for hiring a hitman to murder his ex-wife!) and tried to get in touch with Berry Gordy, the other credited co-writer. The people at the museum said they "thought" the lyric was "do the jerk." I never heard from Horn or Gordy.

    Has anyone else ever heard this lyric as "do the dirt," or is it just me and my lower-class Detroit up upbringing? (I'm totally against gun violence, btw, I just like nitty gritty blues songs sometimes.)
    I worked at the Museum (way before it was popular LOL). In "Shotgun", Jr. is singing "Do the Jerk baby, do the Jerk now!" The questionable lyrics to the song over the years had always been what does he mean when he says "Twine Time" or was he really sing "cryin' time" . Even Berry Gordy questioned him about what was he saying. It turned out that he was singing "Twine Time". Now looking back, I recall there was also a dance called "The Twine Time". This all makes sense, at least to me because "Shotgun" was a dance party record. My parents played it often when they had house parties back in the 60s.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by mysterysinger View Post
    Blimey I've always thought it was a dance.
    "The Shotgun" was a dance. So were "The Twine Time" and most popular of all, "The Jerk".

  12. #12
    "The Jerk" was to the 60s what "The Bump" was to the 70s!

  13. #13
    Sorry my mistake...Get Ready was inspired by Jackie Lee's "The Duck".

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by marv2 View Post
    "The Shotgun" was a dance. So were "The Twine Time" and most popular of all, "The Jerk".
    "Jerk And Twine" by Jackie Ross was a favourite of mine.

  15. #15
    Jack North, I am going to piggyback on your thread with my own observation of discerning what Jr. Walker is saying in a song. Although I've listened to it hundreds of times, I never understood the first couple of words of the first phrase of "I'm a RoadRunner."

    "????, just living life free and easy."

    Thanks to you, I looked up the lyrics to see that he says, "Money, who needs it". I would have never been able to understand that if the lyrics were not available on line.

    It reminds of the Supremes' Lover's Concerto (I Hear a Symphony album). I used to think Diana was singing, "See Berry on the hill" only to find out later it was, "See there beyond the hill."

    Thanks. I can check this mystery as solved on my bucket list.

  16. #16
    Haaaaaaaaaaa,yep lots of time we think we hear one thing,when it's actually something else..for years i thought that smokey was say-if you can want you can meet..until my wife told me that it was-if you can want you can need.

  17. #17
    [Re post 15] I used to think that the lyrics to "(I'm A) Roadrunner" began with the words "Like Houdini...".

  18. #18
    "Reflections" by DRATS: "As I pee out through the window of lost time..."

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by arr&bee View Post
    Haaaaaaaaaaa,yep lots of time we think we hear one thing,when it's actually something else..for years i thought that smokey was say-if you can want you can meet..until my wife told me that it was-if you can want you can need.
    For years I didn't know what the heck Stevie Wonder was singing in "I Was Made to Love Her". I had been singing along to this song since it came out in 1967! I finally figured it out about 10 years ago. There's a part when NOW I know he was singing:

    I was knee high to a chicken
    When that love bug bit me,


    From the time I was 7 years old, I would just mumble through that part because I couldn't figure out what he was saying! LOL!!!!

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by marv2 View Post
    for years i didn't know what the heck stevie wonder was singing in "i was made to love her". I had been singing along to this song since it came out in 1967! I finally figured it out about 10 years ago. There's a part when now i know he was singing:

    i was knee high to a chicken
    when that love bug bit me,


    from the time i was 7 years old, i would just mumble through that part because i couldn't figure out what he was saying! Lol!!!!
    kind of like what i do after just one sip of this wonderful elixur!!!

  21. #21
    I was about to say, no way this song was about an actual shotgun murder!!!!

  22. #22
    Okay, I guess after all these years I'll have to bow to the posters here. I'll accept that he's saying "jerk." I won't like it, but I'll accept it. When I sing it I'll do my grittier traditional blues version!

    (As a side note while on Jr. Walker and lyrics: I also love "gonna blow fuh ya" and "gonna blow again fuh ya" just before the sax solos on Walker's "What Does it Take")

    By the way, for those who have fun with misheard lyrics, they're called "mondegreens" after "Lady Mondegreen." The term has a funny origin and there are sites that listed hundreds.

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by JackNorth View Post
    Okay, I guess after all these years I'll have to bow to the posters here. I'll accept that he's saying "jerk." I won't like it, but I'll accept it. When I sing it I'll do my grittier traditional blues version!

    (As a side note while on Jr. Walker and lyrics: I also love "gonna blow fuh ya" and "gonna blow again fuh ya" just before the sax solos on Walker's "What Does it Take")

    By the way, for those who have fun with misheard lyrics, they're called "mondegreens" after "Lady Mondegreen." The term has a funny origin and there are sites that listed hundreds.
    Do you remember ELO's song "Don't Bring Me Down"? For years I thought he was saying "Bruce" but he was singing a made-up word, "Grooss", LOL!

  24. #24
    We need a dedicated SDF thread for mondegreens.

    In "You've Been In Love Too Long" I used to think that Martha was singing "When justice smiles.." instead of "When just his smile..."

  25. #25
    There's a long out-of-print book series of mondegreens I'd give my eyeteeth for. The first in the series was called 'Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy.

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by 144man View Post
    [Re post 15] I used to think that the lyrics to "(I'm A) Roadrunner" began with the words "Like Houdini...".
    Hey 144man, I am not saying it's the gospel truth of being "Money, who needs it." That just happened to be the first result of my google search. Whose to say that was the definitive answer? Yours (Like Houdini) works just as well.

  27. #27
    I always thought he was saying "Do the jerk baby, do the jerk now" but I know how that is with other songs also. I could never make out what Little Sonny was saying in Cowboys to Girls when you get to "And I'ts me That Your Kissing, Ain't It Fun Reminiscing" I just recently found out by listening to other versions of the song by Gene Chandler and Joe Battan.
    Last edited by mr_june; 06-11-2019 at 02:35 PM.

  28. #28
    man those Miracles always got a good work out, "Come On Do the Jerk" was always my fave Jerk song. next would be "The Jerk" by Martha & the Vandellas on the Dance Party LP. Jr. was singing about dances Shotgun, Jerk & Twine which were all big at about the same time.I do remember that Berry Gordy hadn't heard about the Twine & thought Jr. was singing Cryin Time at the end but no it was Twine Time.

  29. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by motony View Post
    man those Miracles always got a good work out, "Come On Do the Jerk" was always my fave Jerk song. next would be "The Jerk" by Martha & the Vandellas on the Dance Party LP. Jr. was singing about dances Shotgun, Jerk & Twine which were all big at about the same time.I do remember that Berry Gordy hadn't heard about the Twine & thought Jr. was singing Cryin Time at the end but no it was Twine Time.
    Yep! The Twine was a dance. "Shotgun" was a dance like "The Hitchhike", which was a few years earlier. I don't think people name dances today. I don't think people dance today.....

  30. #30
    In “The Happening,” as a kid, I thought the lyric was, “You’ll find your world in a summer gown.”

  31. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by marv2 View Post
    I worked at the Museum (way before it was popular LOL). In "Shotgun", Jr. is singing "Do the Jerk baby, do the Jerk now!" The questionable lyrics to the song over the years had always been what does he mean when he says "Twine Time" or was he really sing "cryin' time" . Even Berry Gordy questioned him about what was he saying. It turned out that he was singing "Twine Time". Now looking back, I recall there was also a dance called "The Twine Time". This all makes sense, at least to me because "Shotgun" was a dance party record. My parents played it often when they had house parties back in the 60s.
    Marv, what a lucky kid you were! Your mom was always bringing home the latest Motown releases, and your parents hosted dance parties! How cool is that! My mother, bless her heart, joined the RCA Record Club and bought LPs by Frankie Carle, Kate Smith, and the "Hello Dolly" soundtrack album. Not exactly party material!

  32. #32
    I believe we had a thread a few years ago on mondegreens.

  33. #33
    Quote Originally Posted by Philles/Motown Gary View Post
    Marv, what a lucky kid you were! Your mom was always bringing home the latest Motown releases, and your parents hosted dance parties! How cool is that! My mother, bless her heart, joined the RCA Record Club and bought LPs by Frankie Carle, Kate Smith, and the "Hello Dolly" soundtrack album. Not exactly party material!
    Well, they were in their 20s and 30s back then and so were most of their friends. They went to nightclubs just like most people that were at Motown.

  34. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by luke View Post
    I believe we had a thread a few years ago on mondegreens.
    I wished we could find it.

  35. #35
    Quote Originally Posted by marv2 View Post
    Well, they were in their 20s and 30s back then and so were most of their friends. They went to nightclubs just like most people that were at Motown.
    They hung out at the 20 Grand and the Rooster Tail, as did the Motown employees, to watch the Motown artists perform? Wow!
    It's no wonder you knew so many people around Motown. It's like I keep saying, the '60s were a fantastic time to grow up! And, thanks to your parents, you were right in the middle of it!

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