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Mustang Sally

by

Wilson Pickett



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This song is about a girl who lives a wild life in her brand new Mustang car. The singer bought her the car, which transformed her into "Mustang Sally," and now she's running around town, paying little attention to her sugar daddy. Picket warns her that she needs to slow it down with one of the great threats in Soul music history: "Guess I have to put your flat feet on the ground!"
This song was written by Bonny Rice, also known as Sir Mack Rice. Bonny started singing with a vocal group called the Five Scalders in 1955 and joined The Falcons in 1957. Eddie Floyd was also in The Falcons, and Mack later wrote songs for him when he went solo. In 1960, Wilson Pickett joined The Falcons and sang lead on their 1962 hit "I Found A Love," and left the group for a solo career later that year.

In 1963, The Falcons broke up, and in 1965, Rice wrote a song called "Mustang Mama" after visiting his friend, the actress/singer Della Reese, in New York City. Reese told him that she was thinking about buying her drummer Calvin Shields a new Lincoln for his birthday, which Rice, being from Detroit, thought was a great idea. When he mentioned this to Shields, the drummer replied, "I don't want a Lincoln, I want a Mustang."

As Rice explained on the 2007 Rhythm & Blues Cruise, he had never heard of a Mustang before, but Shields filled him in. They went for a drive and saw a billboard for a Mustang - Rice couldn't believe Shields wanted such a small car instead of a big ol' Lincoln. When he returned to Detroit, Rice started writing the song as "Mustang Mama," with the chorus "ride, Sally, ride." His publisher knew Aretha Franklin well, and brought Rice by her house, and he sang some of the song for her. Aretha suggested he change the title to "Mustang Sally" to better suit the chorus.

In May of 1965 Bonny Rice released his original version of this song as Sir Mack Rice, and it hit the R&B charts, peaking at #15. Wilson Pickett came across the song when Rice was booked to play at The Apollo theater, and the headliner Clyde McPhatter didn't show. Rice called his old bandmate Pickett, who performed in McPhatter's place. When Pickett heard Rice perform "Mustang Sally," he decided to record it himself. His version hit the R&B and Pop charts a year and a half after Rice originally recorded the song.

Mack Rice later sang with Ollie and the Nightingales, joining them in 1970. He was also a staff songwriter for Stax Records, and wrote the hits "Respect Yourself" for the Staple Singers and "Cheaper To Keep Her" for Johnny Taylor.
This song was recorded at FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. FAME had been operating since 1959 and had a big hit recording "When A Man Loves A Woman" for Percy Sledge. The Muscle Shoals musicians were building a reputation as some of the best in the business, and they caught the attention of Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records, which was Pickett's label. Wexler sent Pickett (a native of Prattville, Alabama) to record there, and the sessions produced this song and also his hit "Land Of 1,000 Dances." Wexler started sending more acts to Muscle Shoals, and in 1969, some of their top musicians, including guitarist Jimmy Johnson and drummer Roger Hawkins, left FAME and formed their own studio a few miles away, financed by Wexler. This became Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, where Paul Simon, Bob Seger, Rod Stewart, Lynyrd Skynyrd The Rolling Stones, Cher and hundreds of other acts would record in the '70s.
According to Rolling Stone magazine's Top 500 Songs, "Mustang Sally nearly ended up on the studio floor - literally. After Pickett finished his final take at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, the tape suddenly flew off the reel and broke into pieces. But the session engineer, the legendary Tom Dowd, calmly cleared the room and told everyone to come back in half an hour. Dowd pieced the tape back together and saved what became one of the funkiest soul anthems of the '60s."
Spooner Oldham, who is one of the top Muscle Shoals musicians and co-writer of the hits "I'm Your Puppet" (James and Bobby Purify) and "Cry Like a Baby" (The Box Tops), played the keyboard on this song. The keyboards are one of the most distinctive parts of the song, but they weren't on the demo - Spooner had to create the part so he could play on the record (and get paid). When we spoke with Oldham in 2011, he told us: "I was sitting on a stool, and we listened to a demo of Sir Mack Rice who wrote the song, and the first thing I noticed was there was no keyboard on that record. But I'm here, I want the job - what am I going to do that will work within that song? And I just closed eyes for a second, daydreaming, and said, 'I wonder what it would sound like if I pretended I was a Harley Davidson motorcycle and was driving through the studio, what would that sound like?' There's a little pause in that record where there's not much going on, and I do rorp-rorp-rorp kind of revving engine thing. And Jerry Wexler liked it, because he later tried to get me to do it again when I was in New York. Of course, I didn't, it was specific for that song."
This was featured in the 1991 movie The Commitments, which was about an Irish Soul band. Pickett's music got a lot more exposure after the movie came out.

Other films that used the song include Road House (1989), Miss Congeniality (2000), Bandits (2001), and P.S. I Love You (2007).

TV shows that have used the song include The Wonder Years, Miami Vice, and My Name Is Earl.
Wilson Pickett
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Comments (11):

Classic song. I like the version sung in The Commitments. Not sure people born after 1970 would know who Wilson Pickett was.
- Joel Hugh McHaggis, Wick, United Kingdom
Classic song. I like the version sung in The Commitments. Not sure people born after 1970 would know who Wilson Pickett was.
- Joel Hugh McHaggis, Wick, United Kingdom
My two favorite cover versions are from Buddy Guy and from Magic Slim & the Teardrops
- Doug, Grand Rapids, MI
Oh, I think the very best songfact about this song is that a woman named SALLY RIDE became the first U.S. woman, as well as the youngest American at that time, to travel into space in 1983. Newspapers printed large pictures of her on their front page with the headlines "Ride Sally Ride!" It is simply wonderful that she had that name and that particular claim to fame.
- Camille, Toronto, OH
The drummer was Roger Hawkins. He was a major part of the Muscle Shoals Sound. They recorded at Rick Hall's FAME Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
Roger and the rest of the Muscle Shoals Rythm Section were inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame back in the 90s.
- Bud, Birmingham, AL
does anybody know who the drummer was on "Mustang Sally"?
- arnie, phila, PA
This song was also cover by the Rascals In 1966
and was a better version in my opinion then wilson pickett who recorded it a year later. which is funny because thats the only version I reall listen to when I hear wilsons version I cringe.
- Richard, amitville, NY
"Mustang Sally" is a great song that's been totally under-rated. It's got everything a blues song needs, and nobody does it better than Wilson Pickett. Sadly, you never hear "Mustang Sally" on the radio anymore, you never even hear it on "Golden Oldies" programmes, and that's a shame. I don't think this song was made to sing fast, but slowly and soulfully.
- Jim, Tsumeb, Namibia
The version of this song sung by the band in the movie, "The Commitments" was the first time I had ever heard this song. I like the original as well as the remake by The Commitments' - it's a bit faster and louder than the original.
- Jennifer, Indianapolis, IN
This song is played in the movie "Miss Congeniality". After FBI agent Sandra Bullock has her make-over for the upcoming beauty/talent contest.
- Don, B G, KY
The song was written by Bonnie Rice (AKA "Sir" Mack Rice), who wrote for such artists as The Staple Singers, Etta James, Eddie Floyd, and many others. He worked a lot down at Muscle Shoals studios, where he wrote "Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin" that was popularized by Lynyrd Skynyrd, (who also popularized the studio in the song "Sweet Home Alabama...but I digress)

Mustang Sally reached #6 on the R&B charts in 1966, and was only the 4th of 16 Top 40 hits that Pickett would earn during his career.

An excellent cover by The Commitments for the movie The Commitments in 1991 re-introduced the song to a whole new audience, and helped earn Pickett a healthy measure of respect with another generation of music lovers.

Pickett was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 1991
- Steve, Gaithersburg, MD
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His keyboard work helped define the Muscle Shoals sound and make him an integral part of many Neil Young recordings. Spooner is also an accomplished songwriter, whose hits include "I'm Your Puppet" and "Cry Like A Baby."
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