Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)
Lots of great records have risen from the Louisiana swamps, one being "Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)," which took a winding road to South Carolina before hitting it big. Originally released by Baton Rouge group Dick Holler and the Holidays in 1963, the R&B-influenced, piano-heavy Cajun rocker gave us a set of lyrics not unfamiliar to New Orleans-area Mardi Gras partiers:
'Woke up this morning my head was so bad, the worst hangover that I ever had
What happened to me last night, that girl of mine she loved me so right
She loved me so long and she loved me so hard, I finally passed out in her front yard
It wasn't wine that I had too much of, it was a double shot of my baby's love.'
...Been there, done that, right? Yet the single went unnoticed, though Holler became successful as a songwriter, composing two of the biggest hits of the '60s: "Snoopy Vs. the Red Baron" (penned with Phil Gernhard), a smash by The Royal Guardsmen based on characters from Charles Schulz's Peanuts comic strip, and the very different message/protest song "Abraham, Martin and John," a major hit for Dion following the 1968 assassination of Robert Kennedy that has been recorded through the years by many artists.
The Medallions, an eight-member band from Greenwood, South Carolina, were formed around this time (not to be confused with the R&B group that recorded "Buick 59" several years earlier). The group's main emphasis was a four-man horn section, with trumpeters Charlie Webber and Carroll Bledsoe in addition to sax players Steve Caldwell and Brent Forston (who did double duty on flute). The other half of the group consisted of John McElrath on keyboards, guitarist Jim Doares, Jim Perkins on bass and Joe Morris bangin' the drumkit. Most of them took on vocal duties at one time or another. In 1965 they were signed to Smash Records, the name was altered to Swingin' Medallions and their second single was an energized "Double Shot," performed like a drunken sing-along with a catchy organ hook that jumped right out at you. It was a top 20 hit in June 1966.
Between the release of the single and its accompanying album, the lyrics of the song underwent an unfortunate change...apparently someone, somewhere, was offended by the lyrics (which were faithful to the original). On some pressings of the album, the 'worst hangover' line was overdubbed as 'worst morning after' and the girl 'kissed me so right, kissed me so long' and 'kissed me so hard' that I almost pass out when I hear it this way! The first version was already in heavy rotation on radio and the wine drinking reference had been left intact (so go ahead and raise another rose-colored glass, all you adolescent music fans!), but was anyone really shocked by it? The whole thing just seemed pointless.
The single's flip side, "Here it Comes Again," is an instrumental gem that illustrates the full effect of the group's substantial lineup of musicians. This type of song could have stood on its own as an A side, but the label chose instead to follow up with a cookie-cutter variation on the first single, "She Drives Me Out of My Mind," the track little more than "Double Shot Part 2" with near-identical vocals, arrangement and organ riff. The band's downward cycle began almost immediately. Caldwell and Forston left to put their saxophones to use in a new octet, Pieces of Eight, and had a minor hit in the summer of 1967 with a remake of The O'Jays' '63 chart debut, "Lonely Drifter." Released on A&M, the act was billed in small print on the label as "The Original Swingin' Medallions." The flip side followed a similar pattern to that of the Medallions, with a horn-heavy instrumental version of Jimmy Smith's 1964 jazz hit "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," introduced in the 1962 Broadway show of the same name. Caldwell and Forston departed soon after, and both groups with were finished...as far as hitting the charts, at least.
Varying lineups of Swingin' Medallions and Pieces of Eight have continued performing ever since, mostly in the south, though original members have drifted away or retired. "Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)" became a standard for aspiring garage rock bands of the later '60s, partly for its party vibe and partly for the simplicity of the addictive organ riff. I know this last comment to be true, having been the keyboard player in a junior-high-level garage band (actually so low-level that we never made it out of the garage), my limited musical skills nevertheless able to handle the simple but dynamic note progression. We decided to call ourselves the Silencers, but after just two practice sessions we became the silenced. The song, on the other hand, Dick Holler's Cajun hangover transferred into a Swingin' Medallions Carolina classic, will play on loudly for many years to come.