Lost Classics! The Signifying Monkey

Dickie & the Tornadoes, with singer Billy Cross (1980s)

The first time I ever heard of the Signifying Monkey was in the early 1980s, in a dive called the Riverside Tavern in Port Neches, Texas.  Just down the street from a Texaco plant, the bar attracted sailors off petroleum tankers in dock and it was a tough place to hang out to say the least.  I don’t know who was braver, the patrons of the Riverside or the musicians who played there. 

One of the bands we enjoyed there was Dickie and the Tornadoes, with lead singer Billy Cross (formerly a road manager for the Fabulous Thunderbirds) and one of their crowd pleasing tunes was “The Signifying Monkey.”  The song told the story of a badass little monkey who comes into contact with other, much larger and supposedly more ferocious jungle inhabitants and manages to overcome them all.  The Signifying Monkey character has a long history in African-American folklore (look it up) but we like him because the songs involve lots of cussing.

The template for “The Signifying Monkey” songs was set by R&B bandleader Johnny Otis, who recorded the source material under the pseudonym of Snatch and the Poontangs.  Otis put out the self-titled album in 1969, it is nasty as hell and a great party album.  Snatch and the Poontangs also features Otis’ guitar prodigy son Shuggie Otis and singer Delmar Evans.  Many other artists have included the Signifying Monkey in their songs over the years, most notably the late R.L. Burnside, on his great A Ass Pocket Of Whiskey album in 1996.

WARNING: The following music files contain racy language, which guarantees about 1,000,000 kids will download them. 

MP3: “The Signifying Monkey (Part 1)” by Snatch and the Poontangs

MP3: “The Signifying Monkey (Part 2)” by Snatch and the Poontangs

MP3: “The Criminal Inside Me” by R.L. Burnside

One Response to “Lost Classics! The Signifying Monkey”

  1. signifying monkey was released on sun label (3 PRESSINGS)
    YEAT: 1955


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