Shorty Long – “Devil with the Blue Dress”

Shorty Long – “Devil with the Blue Dress,” did not chart

Mitch Ryder and Bruce Springsteen fans will be taken aback by Shorty Long’s half-speed tempo on his original recording of “Devil with the Blue Dress.” Long’s bluesy shuffle is closer to Chicago blues than Detroit soul. It’s a far cry from the frenetic, late-set showstopper “Devil” has become.

Long’s co-writer Mickey Stevenson’s crisp production serves the song well – check the smacking echo in the handclaps and the dry wash Long’s guitar is given. All the elements are in place for a hit – why this didn’t stick is a mystery. Perhaps Long’s early demise in a boating accident just five years later, in 1969, and the success of Ryder’s 1966 cover, erased him from public consciousness.

When Ryder took transplanted the number from the roadhouse to the garage, he doubled the speed and paired it with Little Richards’s “Good Golly Miss Molly” and got a No. 4 hit. That’s the arrangement Springsteen is prone to trot out, but Long’s original vision is a Motown treasure waiting to be unearthed. — by Joel Francis

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