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.