THE VACANT LOT
Don't Let Me Sleep Too Long
(Danny Mansolino - Rick Philp - Dave Palmer - Charles Larkey - Myke Rosa)
Australia 1967

Single on Columbia by Sydney band. Later anthologised by Raven on the LP Ugly Things, Vol. 1 (though sadly it wasn't on the condensed Ugly Things CD).

.

Back, L→ R: Robert Chapman, Robin O'Connor, Johnny Litchfield
Front: John Hayes, Dennis Hayes
(Go to The Blog to see a Vacant Lot gig advert from the 60s.)


The writing credits here are to members of The Myddle Class, who learnt the song through The Blues Project's live performances of Wake Me, Shake Me. The ultimate source is a traditional gospel hymn (see below).

Don't Let Me Sleep Too Long/Wake Me Shake Me became one of those standard rock songs that are reworked and recorded by a number of bands. According to Professor ZB's Blues Class, Every garage band in existence played their version of Wake Me, Shake Me. Its appearance in Lou Reed's song Wagon Wheel (see below) probably confirms its familiarity among rock musicians.

Image from Robert of The Vacant Lot. Thanks to David Johnston for correcting year of release.

The Vacant Lot, formed in Sydney in 1967, should not be confused with 21st Century bands Vacant Lot from Brisbane or The Vacant Lot from Melbourne. Nor, for that matter, with early-80s Sydney punk band The Vacant Lot. Then there's the Australian contemporary choir Voices from the Vacant Lot.

THE BLUES PROJECT
Wake Me, Shake Me
(Al Kooper)
USA 1966
Influential version

On 1966 album Projections. The session for this song was in August 1966. (An earlier recording appeared on Live At The Town Hall, but wasn't released until after the band had broken up.)

The song was also known as (I Heard Her Say) Wake Me, Shake Me (for example on Blues Project's 1973 album Reunion In Central Park).

An eclectic progressive band with personnel from a variety of musical backgrounds, The Blues Project included Al Kooper, by then an experienced songwriter (This Diamond Ring), session guitarist and keyboardist (Like A Rolling Stone, Blonde On Blonde) who would later found Blood Sweat and Tears. He recorded two albums with Mike Bloomfield (including Super Sessions), signed The Zombies to Columbia Records and produced a number of artists including his discovery Lynyrd Skynyrd.


Apart from stylistic differences and some minor lyrical variations, this is the same song as The Myddle Class's Don't Let Me Sleep Too Long, released earlier in the same year that the The Blues Project's album version was released.

Al Kooper comments: The Blues Project let The Myddle Class open for them as a favor and in return, they stole their closing song! Nobody really even heard The Myddle Class theft in the US outside of New York City. The Blues Project’s version of Wake Me, Shake Me was the big version in the US and influenced a lot of young bands. (Email)

When the Myddle Class single was re-released on Buddah (1970), it credited the arrangement to Al Kooper and The Blues Project.


References: 1. Blues Project chronology at Chrome Oxide. 2. Richie Unterberger on Blues Project. 3. Bruce Eder on Al Kooper at All Music Guide.

Further reading: 1. Chas Kit's feature on The Myddle Class (including mp3s) at his fine Garage Hangover blog. 2. Al Kooper's website at alkooper.com/.

Thanks to Chas Kit for clarification via Spectropop Group.

THE MYDDLE CLASS
Don't Let Me Sleep Too Long
(Danny Mansolino - Rick Philp - Dave Palmer - Charles Larkey - Myke Rosa)
USA 1966
Influential version

Influential single, a regional hit in parts of America by New Jersey folk-rock band on the Tomorrow label (1966), re-released on Buddah (1970). Although the writer credits are to members of The Myddle Class, the Buddah label also carries the credit Arrangement by Al Kooper and the Blues Project. See Al Kooper's comments, above.

This version was released earlier in the same year as Blues Projects' album version.

Tomorrow was the label of Carole King and Gerry Goffin, who wrote songs for The Myddle Class, including collaborations with band members Dave Palmer and Rick Philp. After divorcing Gerry Goffin, Carole King married Myddle Class bassist Charles Larkey, with whom she formed a band, The City.

Reference: Max Waller & Barry Margolis, Fuzz Acid & Flowers, published by Borderline Books. Wikipedia's Carole King entry also covers this period.

Further reading: Garage Hangover's post on The Myddle Class.

THE GOLDEN CHORDS
Wake Me, Shake Me
(Traditional)
USA 1963
Influential version

Philadelphian gospel group The Golden Chords performed at New York gospel club The Sweet Chariot. That is where Al Kooper heard them perform Wake Me, Shake Me, the song he later adapted in a rock idiom for The Blues Project. A Golden Chords version was released on a Live At The Sweet Chariot album on Columbia.


The lead singer of The Golden Chords at this time was soul/r&b singer and songwriter Lorraine Ellison (1943-1985), now remembered for her 1966 r&b classic Stay With Me and a body of work under-appreciated at the time.

The Golden Chords also released at least one single, He Will/Just A Little Courage, on Columbia, 1963.

Thanks to Al Kooper.

REV GARY DAVIS
Tryin' To Get To Heaven In Due Time
(Traditional)
USA 1961

A version of Wake Me, Shake Me, Don't Let Me Sleep Too Long on the 1961 album Say No To The Devil.

Rev Gary Davis (1896-1972) was an influential self-taught ragtime guitarist, preacher, street singer and teacher who played in a variety of genres including blues and gospel.

References: 1. Bruce Eder on Rev. Gary Davis at All Music Guide. 2. RevGaryDavis.com [archived version].

 
THE COASTERS
Wake Me, Shake Me
(Billy Guy)
USA 1960

Single on Atco, pruduced by Jerry Leiber &  Mike Stoller.

Composer is Coasters baritone Billy Guy (1936-2002).

This amounts to a secularised parody of The Staple Singers' Let Me Ride, with the chariots from Swing Low, Sweet Chariot becoming garbage trucks. The familiar Wake me, shake me refrain is transformed into the words of a garbage man worried about losing his job if he sleeps late.

See below for possible indirect influence of Ersel Hickey.

For more on The Coasters, see Poison Ivy.

Reference: Bill Millar, The Coasters, (1974).

ERSEL HICKEY
Due Time
(Traditional)
USA 1958

Incomplete, unreleased track for Epic label, a rock'n'roll version of the gospel song Wake Me, Shake Me (the title is from its line Got to get to heaven in due time). According to Bear Family liner notes, it may have led to The Coasters' Wake Me, Shake Me after Ersel Hickey played his recording to their producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

Rockabilly singer and composer Ersel Hickey (born O'Hickey, 1934-2004) had sung in a gospel group before turning to rock'n'roll. His best known recording is of his own song Bluebirds Over The Mountain (1958), later recorded by The Beach Boys. He also co-wrote The Serendipity Singers' 1964 hit Don't Let The Rain Come Down (Crooked Little Man).

Biographies of Ersel Hickey usually mention his 1958 publicity photo by Gene LaVerne which has become an iconic image of studied 50s rock'n'roll attitude.

References: 1. Ersel Hickey features at Rockabilly Hall Of Fame, Spectropop and All Music Guide. 2. Rockin' Country Style has a song list with some audio clips and label shots.

THE STAPLE SINGERS
Let Me Ride
(Roebuck Staples)
USA 1957

Single on Avco by family gospel group.

 

This reworking of Swing Low Sweet Chariot includes the refrain Wake me, shake me/ Don't let me sleep too late/ Tryin' to get to Heaven in due time/ Before the Heaven's doors close.

 

 
THE ORIGINAL FIVE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA
Swingin' On The Golden Gate
(Traditional)
USA

One of a number of tracks unreleased until the 1990s but recorded 1953-1957 by gospel group first formed in the 1930s and continuing in one form or another to this day.

This swinging gospel recording includes several lyrical elements found in other variations: Tryin' to get to heaven in due time/ Just before that heaven door closed... (I heard her say) Wake me, shake me/ Don't you let me sleep too late... Wake me in the morning/ Let me swing on the golden gate...

Further reading: Richard Skelly's biography of the Original Five Blind Boys of Alabama at All Music Guide.

THE WRIGHT BROTHERS GOSPEL SINGERS
Wake Me, Shake Me, Don't Let Me Sleep Too Long
(Traditional)
USA 1940

This seems to be a well-known version, possibly influential in its structure, lyrics and melody. Released on the Bluebird label.

The lyrics include Wake me, shake me/ Don't let me sleep too late (cf. Fiddlin' John Carson's 1927 recording) as well as Tryin' to get to Heaven in due time/ Before the Heaven's doors close (as in the Pace Jubilee Singers' recording, also 1927). In future versions, with variations, these lines are standard.

This track is also available at emusic (pay for download).

FIDDLIN' JOHN CARSON & HIS VIRGINIA REELERS
Gonna Swing on the Golden Gate
(Traditional)
USA 1927

This is the earliest recording I know of that has both the familiar Wake me/ shake me refrain (albeit reversed as Shake me, wake me) as well as Don't let me sleep too late. (It continues I'm goin' away in the morning/ Gonna swing on the golden gate.)

There is a direct line from this energetic, rhythmic recording to the rock versions of the 60s, more so than in the hymn-like Pace Jubilee Singers
variation, also from 1927. This isn't yet Wake Me Shake Me/Don't Let Me Sleep Too Long, the song we know from Blues Project/Myddle Class/Vacant Lot, but there is clearly a family resemblance.

No doubt there are other - even earlier - variations to be found. Certainly, the theme of Heaven's golden gates is common in gospel music: take, for example, Ernest Hare's 1928 recording on Champion, Keep Dem Golden Gates Wide Open For Me
.


55-year-old Georgian cotton mill worker Fiddlin' John Carson (1868-1949) released Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane/The Old Hen Cackled on Okeh in 1923. John Bush at All Music Guide notes that this was the first recording by a strictly country artist and arguably the beginning of the country music recording industry.

Reference: John Bush's overview of Fiddlin' John Carson at All Music Guide.
Further reading: Wikipedia aricle on Fiddlin' John Carson.
Thanks to Phil X. Milstein for version alert.


THE PACE JUBILEE SINGERS
Heaven's Door's Gonna Be Closed
(Traditional)
USA 1927

Recorded March 1927 for the Gennett Label.

Although this is a close relation of Wake Me, Shake Me, it has a more stately traditional hymn tune, without the gospel rhythm of Wake Me Shake Me. The familiar lines Tryin' to get to Heaven in due time/ Before the Heaven's doors close are here, but not the Wake me, shake me refrain.

The Pace Jubilee Singers
were formed in 1925 by composer and publisher Charles Henry Pace (1886-1963).

References: Gennett label discography at Online Discographies Project. Charles Henry Pace's biography from Center for American Music [archived page].
Thanks to Joop Jansen.

This track is available at emusic (pay for download).

The CD is available at Amazon.com.
[TRADITIONAL GOSPEL SONGS]
For example: Wake Me, Shake Me, Don't Let Me Sleep Too Long
(Traditional)
Original version

It would take a scholar of gospel music to sort out the strands, but there are a number of thematically and lyrically related - if not identical - hymns or gospel songs with such titles as Heaven's Door's Gonna Be Closed, Wake Me Shake Me, Tryin' To Get To Heaven In Due Time, Due Time, Don't Let Me Sleep Too Long, Gonna Swing on the Golden Gate and Swingin' On The Golden Gate.

In addition to those listed on this page, there are recordings by The Consolers, Marion Williams, The Sensational Statesman Quartet with Hovie Lister, Brother Joe May, Isaiah Owens, and no doubt many others.
THE FOUR TOPS
Shake Me, Wake Me (When It's Over)
(Holland - Dozier - Holland)
USA 1966
Red herring
#18 USA

Not the same song as 'Wake Me, Shake Me' or its variations.

Interesting that Fiddlin' John Carson on his 1927 recording, discussed above, also sings Shake me/ wake me instead of Wake me/ shake me.

Later versions:

THE WRONGH BLACK BAG
Wake Me, Shake Me
USA 1968
Later version

Single on Mainstream by Connecticut band.

Listen at Spin The Groove.

THE POWER OF BECKETT
Shake Me Wake Me
(Palmer - Mansolino - Rosa - Philp - Larkey)
Canada 1968
Later version

Single on Quality. This is not the Four Tops track of this name, but a variation of the title Wake Me Shake Me. The influential version is Don't Let Me Sleep Too Long by The Myddle Class whose members are credited as writers on the this single.

1968 garage punker from Montreal, Quebec, Canada --- Bob Stoehr, Cliff Randall, Greg Tomlinson, M. Smith - Spin the Groove, post on Shake Me Wake Me..

Thanks to Andy at Spin the Groove [homepage] for version alert.

Listen at Spin The Groove.
Label shot at Rate Your Music.

LOU REED
Wagon Wheel
USA 1972
Later version

On Transformer.

The last minute of the song is given over to the chorus of Wake Me, Shake Me: Why don't you wake me, shake me, please don't let me sleep too long.

 

Corrections or comments? Contact the writer.