The Answerers

Dear Millicent,

To be added to the list of fascinating things: response songs. These are songs written as an answer to a previous song, often making a song fight, or, at least, a melodic last word. It makes sense that musicians sing back to other songs before them, and it’s especially lovely when they point out the sticky bits in the previous song, correcting and challenging.

Here are two super famous response songs from the fifties:

The Original:

Hank Thompson’s “Wild Side of Life”

The Throwdown: “I might have known you’d never make a wife.”  Also, you’re a slut, and you won’t talk to to me anymore.

The Response:

Kitty Wells’ “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels”

The Big Suck It: You were married the whole time, you bastard. [Also, note that Wells is performing in front of 10 men, there is only one other woman on stage].

The Original:

Hank Ballard and the Midnighters’ “Work With Me Annie”

The Throwdown: Annie, we have to sex. Like, right now.

The Response:

Etta James (ETTA JAMES!), in her first single “Roll With Me Henry” which was too dirty sounding, so it got renamed, “The Wall Flower” and “Dance With Me Henry.”

Here is another great version by the Platters, wherein there is slapping and dancing.

The Big Suck It: I’m game, but you’re doing it wrong. “You’re not moving me.”

“Work With Me Annie” had a bunch of response songs. The Midnighter’s did their own called “Annie Had a Baby,” all about how Annie can’t work anymore, because she had a baby. The song was banned from the radio.  She must have gotten pregnant while dancing.