Thursday, February 9, 2017

Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels – "Sock It To Me – Baby!" (1967)

Sock it . . . to me baby
Sock it . . . to me, baby
Sock it!

After losing the 1960 presidential election and the 1962 California governor’s race, Richard Nixon spent the next few years licking his electoral wounds.

Nixon, who wasn’t exactly “Mr. Personality,” knew he’d have to do things differently if he hoped to make a political comeback.  As part of his efforts to become more personable and appealing to voters, Nixon hired a former NBC comedy writer named Paul Keyes.  

Paul Keyes and Richard Nixon
Keyes persuaded Nixon to appear on the series premiere of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, which aired on September 16, 1968 – less than two months before the 1968 presidential election.  (That contest pitted Nixon against Democrat Hubert Humphrey and third-party candidate George Wallace.)

The Laugh-In crew asked Nixon to say “What’s a bippy?” when it was time to film his cameo for the show.  Nixon wasn’t sure what a bippy was, so he declined.  He also didn’t want to say “Good night, Dick.”  (Dan Rowan always closed the show by telling his co-host, Dick Martin, “Say good night, Dick,” which Martin answered by saying, “Good night, Dick.”)

Nixon eventually agreed to say “Sock it to me” – which he delivered more as a question than as a statement:

It’s incredible to me that Richard Nixon agreed to appear on Laugh-In, much less did so when the election was only a few weeks away.  Of course, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump appeared on Saturday Night Live, but they appeared a full year before the election.  

“Sock it to me” wasn’t new with Richard Nixon appeared on Laugh-In.  To the contrary, it had been in use for over 100 years, as this excerpt from an 1866 book about the American Civil War shows:

Now then, tell General Emory if they attack him again to go after them, and to follow them up, and to sock it to them, and to give them the devil.

Some people believe that Nixon’s Laugh-In appearance contributed to his winning the very close 1968 election.  Lena Horne – who was no fan of Nixon – reportedly was so angry that she kicked Dick Martin in the shin when she saw him after the election.

Martin defended himself by pointing out that Humphrey was invited to appear on Laugh-In as well, but passed on the invitation.  (Laugh-In’s creator, George Schlatter, later said that he planned to have Humphrey say, “I’ll sock it to you, Dick!”)

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Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels’ “Sock It To Me – Baby!” was released over a year before Nixon’s Laugh-In cameo.    

A few months later, Aretha Franklin released “Respect.”  Aretha’s backup singers chant “Sock it to me” repeatedly during the chorus of “Respect.”

By the way, Mitch Ryder's real name was William S. Levise, Jr.

Click here to listen to “Sock It To Me – Baby!”  I can’t think of another record that used a slide whistle to such good advantage.

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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