A Keener 13 happy birthday (11/4) to Delbert McClinton, who played one of the great harmonica “licks” of all-time on on Bruce Channel’s “Hey Baby”. And it was those notes that led to a meeting with John Lennon that ultimately influenced the sound of two of rock and roll’s most important songs, “Love Me Do” and “Please, Please Me“”.
Quick background. Bruce Channel wrote and recorded “Hey Baby“, with McClinton on harmonica, in late 1961. Released on LeCam Records, the song went all the way to Number One for three weeks in March 1962. “Hey Baby” was a flat-out smash, taking the boys to Europe for a tour of Great Britain with Merseybeat groups managed by Brian Epstein like The Big Three, The Statesmen, and The Four Jays.
And then June 21, 1963 happened, at the Tower Ballroom in New Brighton, England. Added to the show that night was another, if barely-noticed Brian Epstein group, The Beatles. And while popular mythology has Bruce teaching John harmonica while hanging out backstage, that’s not quite accurate. Here’s Delbert and Bruce (in a poorly-titled video), for the record.
And now, for the song we know, love and have sung at parties, bars and football games. Delbert has come up with one of the great gigs. His annual Sandy Beaches Cruise, with a bunch of his musical friends, playing and partying on a cruise ship. Now in it’s 22nd year, Bruce and Delbert got together in 2003 for a 41st anniversary edition of “Hey! Baby”. Love it.