The story of the unreleased Beatles medley Black Dog Blues / Right String Wrong Yo Yo

This is a traditional country blues that dates back to the1920s. It has been recorded a lot of  times under several names, including Daddy Where You Been Gone So Long, Black Dog, Black Dog Blues, Call Me A Dog and Honey Where You Been So Long.

It is however NOT the same song as the Blind Blake song called Black Dog Blues. It also has nothing to do with the Led Zeppelin song.

Beatles recorded this “jam” on the last day of the so called Get Back sessions, 31st of January 1969. I don’t think it should be released as such, but I do think it’s interesting to see (hear) what was floating around in the studio. And to speculate what it resulted in or inspired the Beatles to create on a later stage, together or as solo artists. Also I like to find out why these songs were chosen to run through.

In 1964 John Lennon told an English music paper (NME or Record Mirror probably) that his favourite album of the year was the great folk album, Lots More Blues, Rags and Hollers by Koerner, Ray & Glover.

The Beatles’ take is very close to (a slowed down rendition of) Koerner, Ray & Glover’s version from 1963:

“Fine acoustic instrumentalists and soulful singers, Koerner, Ray & Glover maintained a deep respect for tradition without falling into the trap of becoming slavish imitators. Like Bob Dylan, their Minnesota pal and fellow early ’60s folk-blues enthusiast, they combined a deep knowledge of the blues idiom with a sense of humor and irreverence that was absent from the work of many of their much-too-serious contemporaries.”
– Joel Roberts (No Depression)

It sounds like something The Beatles would enjoy.

“With my newly learned repertoire, I… dropped into the Ten O’Clock Scholar, a Beat coffeehouse, I was looking for players with kindred spirits. The first guy I met in Minneapolis like me was sitting around in there. It was John Koerner and he also had an acoustic guitar with him. Koerner was tall and thin with a look of perpetual amusement on his face. We hit it off right away. When he spoke he was soft spoken, but when he sang he became a field holler shouter. Koerner was an exciting singer, and we began playing a lot together. I learned a lot of songs off Koerner …”
– Bob Dylan (Chronicles: Volume One)

“I used to read the weekly music papers and I remember quite vividly that one of them – possibly Record Mirror or New Musical Express – had a column where they asked the Beatles what their favourite records were and John Lennon said Koerner, Ray & Glover. “F**king hell, the Beatles have heard of these guys!” I had no idea that anybody so famous could have heard of something that obscure which I was listening to. “Me neither,” chuckles Koerner.”
– Ian Anderson (music journalist)

The second part of the medley, Right String Wrong Yo Yo, is also an old blues/country song written by Piano Red, the one that sounds most like The Beatles’ rendition is Carl Perkins’ version from 1957 (The Dance Album):

“He came to the attention of John, Paul and George via his 1955 number ‘Blue Suede Shoes.’ As a result Perkins became one of the seminal influences on George’s life, from the time George obtained Perkins’ debut album ‘Dance Album of Carl Perkins,’ released by Sun Records in 1958.

Carl rose from the doldrums when Chuck Berry invited him to tour with him in Britain in 1964 and during the trip he met the Beatles for the first time. His career, personal life and finances were boosted when the Beatles recorded three of his numbers: ‘Matchbox’, ‘Honey Don’t’ and ‘Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby’. With the royalties he was able to buy his parents a farm.”
– Bill Harry (The Mersey Beat)

The Beatles had also recorded a number of Perkins songs on their various BBC radio appearances: ‘Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby’, ‘Matchbox’, ‘Sure To Fall’, ‘Lend Me Your Comb’ and ‘Honey Don’t’. They performed no less than ten of his compositions on stage. They were: ‘Blue Suede Shoes’, ‘Lend Me Your Comb’, ‘Sure To Fall’, ‘Tennessee’, ‘Your True Love’, ‘Glad All Over’, ‘Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby’,’ Matchbox, Honey Don’t and ‘Gone, Gone, Gone’.

So it’s a fair bet that his cover of Right String Wrong Yo Yo was spinning on The Beatles’ turntable.

The song, Black Dog/Black dog blues, later (partly) influenced John’s 1971 song Crippled Inside which uses a similar tune and has some similarities lyrically. John Lennon said the song was “very corny country and western”. Take 17 wound up on the Imagine album:

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– Hallgeir

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