‘Baby, Please Don’t Go’: Exploring Songs Of The Blues

Few blues songs have been as frequently covered as ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’; originated by Joe Williams’s Washboard Blues Singers.

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Big Joe Williams Baby Please Don't Go
Cover: Courtesy of Universal Music

Few blues songs have been as frequently covered as “Baby Please Don’t Go”; for many, it is the version by Them, the Irish band that was fronted by Van Morrison. It is a song that has a distinct family tree, one in which the cover versions often covered the covers! Joe Williams recorded the original copyrighted version on Thursday, October 31, 1935, in Chicago, but the song is undoubtedly much older. Not that Williams was the only one to copyright it, there are numerous versions with different writing credits, including one by McKinley Morganfield a.k.a. Muddy Waters.

The 1935 original was issued on Bluebird by Joe Williams’s Washboard Blues Singers. This riotous dance version featured Joe on vocals and guitar along with Dad Tracy on one string fiddle and Kokomo Collins on Washboard. Joe recorded it again for Bluebird in 1941 and in 1947 for Columbia; both records featured the original Sonny Boy Williamson No. 1 on harmonica. The 1947 version had Ransom Knowling on bass and Judge Riley on drums, which gave it the “feel” that featured on most of the subsequent versions.

When Van Morrison went into Decca’s studio in the autumn of 1964 to record “Baby Please Don’t Go” he did so without the rest of Them; Decca decided that they did not want the group on the band’s new single after their first record had flopped. They brought in Peter Bardens to play organ and Jimmy Page to play guitar — a wise move, as the single peaked at No. 10 in the UK early in 1965 and scrapped into the American Hot 100 at No. 93. Van had heard a 1959 John Lee Hooker album that included the song, and he later said, “It struck me as being something really unique and different, with a lot of soul.”

Baby Please Don't Go

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The version by Paul Revere and the Raiders undoubtedly took its lead from Them. Georgie Fame covered it and must have been listening to Mose Allison’s version on “Mose Alive”; Georgie always championed Moses’ work. Muddy Waters 1960 version was recorded at the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival and is taken from the wonderful album “Muddy Waters at Newport.” Lyrically it is similar to Big Joe’s version, but amongst other things he drops the reference to ice cream! Just before James Cotton’s harmonica solo, Muddy says, “Look out Sonny Boy.”

Other versions include one by Tampa Kid – not a misprint of Tampa Red, the more famous blues singer – recorded for Decca in 1936, and sounded passably like his more famous namesake. Check out our playlist for more, sadly Them’s version is unavailable, but for a real down-home version check out Mississippi Fred McDowell.

Hear all of the various interpretations of this blues classic.



  1. Charles Smedley

    July 30, 2014 at 8:35 am

    • barrelhse

      August 1, 2014 at 2:52 am

      Tom Rush, also.

  2. Ian Bradley

    July 30, 2014 at 9:04 am

    Welsh rockers Budgie also did a cracking version heavier but still great

  3. uDiscover

    July 30, 2014 at 9:13 am

    Charles, good call on the Dylan…

  4. Eric

    July 30, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    Also there are great versions out there by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee, Mance Lipscomb and Lightning Hopkins !

  5. Tom M

    July 30, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    Ted Nugent on Double Live Gonzo, mid 70’s:

    • Dianne Christian

      October 31, 2015 at 5:33 pm

      Fuck Ted Nugent.

    • Dianne Christian

      October 31, 2015 at 5:36 pm

      Fuck Ted Nugent. He doesn’t belong with these great bluesmen.

  6. allan kelb

    July 31, 2014 at 12:41 am

    Hey- what about ACDC!!!!!!!!!!! after Them, greatest white boy rock version ever. And also the Amboy Dukes version which is also great

  7. jose

    July 31, 2014 at 1:11 am

    Van farts loudly just before the guitar solo, they forgot to fix it in the mix.

  8. Barry mcAuliffe

    July 31, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    Don’t forget AC/DC’s awesome version

  9. Nick

    July 31, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    I still have the origanal version by Them on 45. Great track and still in great condition after all these years and plays.

  10. DESI

    August 1, 2014 at 1:25 am

    I was lucky to have seen Them back in Belfast @ the Maritime Club. Brown Eyed Girl and more. Baby Please dont Go

  11. John Adkins

    December 17, 2014 at 7:54 pm

  12. Amnesia Blues Band

    January 20, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    And, of course, us last weekend:

  13. Lisa Sez

    February 12, 2015 at 10:52 am

    Alvin Lee…
    Bob Dylan..
    Amboy Dukes…


    June 26, 2016 at 4:05 pm

    Paul Butterfield does a nice version.

  15. Jack

    June 8, 2017 at 9:04 pm

    What about Ten Years After at Woodstock?

  16. Scott Douglas

    June 23, 2017 at 4:32 am

    Katy Guillen and the Girls!


    October 31, 2021 at 6:32 pm

    Saw Big Joe, live in 69′ in Seattle, sing it.

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