Even though I like playing “Mustang Sally” I try to avoid performing it with The Top Shelf because EVERY bar band, wedding band, and R&B band in the US performs this song. Indeed, this particular ditty, a wedding-band staple that’s as common as “In The Mood” has become a source of amusement and derision for working musicians all over the country (see http://www.harmonycentral.com/t5/Backstage-With-the-Band/Mustang-Sally-Flow-Chart/td-p/31049653 to get an idea of what I’m talking about.)
So, given that so many bands perform the song, why is it that so many mangle it?
To get an idea of what I’m talking about, let’s start with the version by Wilson Pickett, which I think remains the gold standard for this song.
Wilson Picket’s version of “Mustang Sally”
In addition to the groove being absolutely perfect, listen to the “turnaround” at 0:52 (the turnaround is what you use to get from the end of one verse into the beginning of the next verse.) Notice that the band stays on the “I” here.
Now, contrast this with a typical “wedding band” version of the song.
Danny D and The Decades’ version of “Mustang Sally”
In addition to the tempo being way too fast, listen to what the band does starting around 0:46 into the tune — they go to the “V” and perform a collection of Lawrence Welk-inspired rhythmic accents.
This is about as “Pat Boone” as it gets.
Sadly, A LOT of wedding bands perform the song this way, which made me wonder who was the first to introduce this turnaround, and why did it catch on?
Needless to say, I was shocked to discover that the band most likely responsible for this approach to “Mustang Sally” was — The Rascals!
Yes, the same band that gave us “Groovin'”, “How Can I Be Sure”, “People Got To Be Free” and countless other hits started as a phenomenally good “blue-eyed” soul cover band. Indeed, their first big hit, “Good Lovin'”, was a cover of a song originally recorded by the Olympics.
So, how does The Rascals’ version stack up? It’s terrific.
The Rascals’ version of “Mustang Sally”
Just listen to how slow and greasy this version is, how much empty space there is, and how they handle, the “V” turnaround at 1:04. I still don’t like the “V” with the accents, but at this tempo, and in their hands, it works.
As for the thousands of bands that perform this tune, here’s my advice: You’re not the Rascals; don’t play the “V” turnaround (known as “that wedding band s%^t”) and please slow … the… tune … down.
Note: Mark Prentice, bass player and assistant music producer for the The Rascals: Once Upon A Dream, points out that the original version of this song was released in 1965 by its composer, Sir Mack Rice, and contains the infamous “V” turnaround. Mark also notes that the Rascals’ recording predates Wilson Pickett’s but was released after. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mustang_Sally_(song).