In our interview with Tommy James, he explained: "'Draggin' The Line' I wrote up at my farm in 1970, and it was with Bob King. My farm was in upstate New York, I had a couple hundred acres. It was a song I probably couldn't have written in the city. We just kind of toyed with it. We wrote it, and it was a very repetitious track, and a very sort of hypnotic track. We had the track before we had the song. We went into the studio and just laid down, I don't know, eight or ten bars of track. We looped it and looped it and looped it, and created the hypnotic rhythm. Bob played bass, Russ Leslie from Neon played drums, and I played guitar. And so we just created loops of tape based on this little riff, and when we had three-plus minutes of it put together we stopped, and then we wrote the song around the track. Second time I had ever done that - first one was "Mony" actually. 'Draggin' the Line' just meant working every day. Nothing really very mysterious about it."
So how did he come up with title? Says James: "It's almost like the bass guitar was speaking. And it just seemed to say 'draggin' the line' to me. It's weird. But we had the track before we had the song, and it was like the bass was speaking."
This song helped create a new phrase, as James explains: "The line of 'hugging a tree' in there became kind of a slang expression for people who are interested in the ecology. 'Tree Hugger' came from that song."
Regarding the lyrics, "My dog Sam eats purple flowers," James says: "I did have a cat named Sam - not a dog named Sam. He was a white Persian cat. That was just finding words that fit together (laughing) on a very mellow night, if you get my drift."
Like many famous songs, this was not considered a hit at first. Says James: "The interesting thing about 'Draggin' the Line' is it was originally the B-side, it was the flip-side of a record called 'Church Street Soul Revival' that I had out in 1970. And we put the record out, and the B-side got as much airplay as the A-side, and then finally more airplay. And so we could tell that radio wanted to go with 'Draggin' The Line.' So we went into the studio and threw horns on it, and remixed it with more emphasis on the groove, and re-released it then as an A-side in 1971, and it went #1."
No Shonells on this one - the group broke up in 1970 and Tommy James continued to record as a solo artist.