Raunchy

Album: Raunchy (1957)
Charted: 11 2

Songfacts®:

  • This was originally called "Backwards." Justis changed the title when he heard someone enjoying the tune say that it was "raunchy," which meant "messy" or "dirty" in '50s teenage slang.
  • Ernie Freeman covered this. It was a reversal of the usual process as Freeman was black and Justis was white. Freeman's version hit #4 while Justis' hit #2. Although both did extensive session work, "Raunchy" remains each act's sole Top 40 hit.
  • George Harrison played this on his guitar for John Lennon when he was auditioning to be a member of The Quarrymen.
  • While working for his father's roofing business in his native Memphis, Justis made the rounds in local dance bands as a trumpet player. When the office's closing left him without a job, Justis decided to pursue music full time as an arranger. An article about Buck Ram, a prolific songwriter and producer who was integral in the vocal group scene of the '50s, turned him on to rock 'n roll.

    "I read about how much money he had made out of rock 'n roll so I said, 'That's for me!'" he recalled in a 1973 interview. "So, I immediately set out for a record store and bought $80 worth of the all-time rock 'n roll hits. I studied the stuff and found it was so simple, yet basic and savage, that it was difficult to perform."
  • Justis landed a gig as musical director at Sun Records, run by Sam Phillips. During his tenure, he arranged music for acts like Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Charlie Rich. Meanwhile, he got the idea to record his own rock 'n roll tune and enlisted a mix of jazzmen and rock 'n roll players for the session that produced "Raunchy." When the sax player he hired fell ill, Justis stepped in. Although he'd long ago traded his trumpet for sax, he hadn't played the instrument for a while, which resulted in a distinctive off tone that set the original instrumental apart from its many covers.
  • The twangy lead guitar riff was played by Sid Manker, a session player at Sun Records, who is also credited as co-writer of the tune.
  • Justis and Freeman weren't the only performers to have a hit with "Raunchy" in 1957. Billy Vaughn also released a version that went to #10. Several other acts covered the tune, including Santo & Johnny, The Ventures, Duane Eddy, Scotty Moore, Alex Chilton, and Booker T. & The M.G.'s, among others.
  • Justis recorded this two more times: in 1962 for the album Bill Justis Plays 12 More Big Instrumental Hits and in 1969 for the album Raunchy & Other Great Instrumentals.
  • This was used in the movies The Loveless (1981), Great Balls Of Fire! (1989), Nowhere Boy (2009), and Camp X-Ray (2014).

Comments: 9

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 8, 1957, the AM radio airwaves must have been flooded with "Raunchy"...
    For on Billboard's Most Played by Jockeys chart for Dec. 8th, 1957 there were three versions of "Raunchy" in the Top 10, Bill Justis was at #6 with his version, one position lower at #7 was Ernie Freeman's version, and right at #10 was Bill Vaughn's version...
    In addition, on Billboard's R&B Best-Sellers in Stores chart, Ernie Freeman's "Raunchy" was at #2 while Bill Justis was at #3, and the #1 record was "You Send Me" by Sam Cooke...
    And on January 5th, 1958 Bill Justis' "Raunchy" replaced Ernie Freeman's version at #1 on Billboard's R&B Most Played by Jockeys chart.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn February 22nd 1958, Bill Justis performed "College Man" on the ABC-TV program 'Dick Clark's Saturday Night Beechnut Show'...
    And the very next day on February 23rd, 1958 it entered Billboard's Top 100 chart at #84; two weeks later it peaked at #42 {for 1 week} and spent 8 weeks on the Top 100...
    It was his only other Top 100 record; it's available on You Tube and at that beginning of the record a chorus sings 'Rah, Rah we hate college'...
    Sadly, Bill Justis passed away on July 15th, 1982 at the young age of 55 {cancer}...
    May he R.I.P.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 9th 1957, Bill Justis performed "Raunchy" on the late Dick Clark's 'American Bandstand'...
    It was just a week after appearing on 'The Guy Mitchell Show' (See post below).
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 2nd, 1957 Bill Justis performed "Raunchy" on the ABC-TV program 'The Guy Mitchell Show'...
    Two weeks earlier on November 18th it entered Billboard's Top 100 chart; eventually it peaked at #2 (for 1 week) and spent 20 weeks on the Top 100...
    And on January 6th, 1958 Ernie Freeman's version of "Raunchy" peaked at #1 (for 2 weeks) on Billboard's R&B chart; and the record that replaced at #1, none other than, "Raunchy" by Bill Justis (for a 1 week stay).
  • Robin from Bolton, United KingdomThe Billy Vaughan version, with a great sax break in the middle, was the first record I ever bought aged 11. Duane Eddy later did "Raunchy" for the album Twangin' the Golden Hits in 1965, which I also bought. The Ventures did it too.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyWhat a song; in 1957 three different versions reached the Top Ten. Besides Justis & Freeman, Billy Vaughn took this song to #10. {Just a side note; the flip-side of Vaughn's version was called "Sail Along Silvery Moon", that song reached #5, thus making Vaughn the only instrumentalist to have a two-sided Top Ten record}...
  • Steve Dotstar from Los Angeles, CaI can't believe that there was a teenage fight over the 2 versions in the 50's, but this guy I knew told me he fought over which version was best after arguing with some guy...lol
    I prefer Ernie's version, because of the 8th note feel on the piano. I hope he isn't reading this..he might come over and pounce on me ;)
  • Terry from Burnaby, BcI beleive that Duane Eddy did a cover of this song
  • Rick from Lafayette, NjGeorge Harrison played this on his guitar as his audition to join John Lennon and Paul McCartney in the Quarrymen
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