Pop Archives

The Spinning Wheels - Got My Mojo Working (1965)

(Preston Foster [label credits Morganfield])
Australia Australia
#6 Melbourne

I haven’t tried to make a comprehensive list of versions. For that, wade through the lists at SecondHandSongs (160 versions), Cover.Info (84 versions) or skip through The Originals’ list (34 essential versions).

Single on His Masters Voice March 1965 by popular Melbourne band. Three of the members had been in a folk-skiffle group called The Four Preachers (nothing wrong with that!), but the name Spinning Wheels is a nod to an early source of inspiration, The Rolling Stones.

Keith Glass, in his definitive account of The Spinning Wheels,* places them in the context of the Melbourne music scene as it reacted to the rise of The Beatles and the British Invasion. Experienced rockers, jazzers and folkies went Mod or Merseybeat, or were sidelined. Some younger and greener bands like the Wheels, though, were closer to the rhythm & blues neighbourhood of British bands like the Stones, The Pretty Things or Manfred Mann

Formed in 1964, the band was initially a five-piece with Don Hirst (guitar, piano, vocals), Michael Perrin (g, v) and Graham Lord (drums) from The Four Preachers joined by Rod Turnbull (v, harmonica, percussion) and Glen Sievers (bass, v). By the time of Got My Mojo Working Tom Cowburn (g, h, v) had become the sixth member.

Following the example of their British influences, the Wheels’ records drew on the repertoires of black American artists such as Chuck Berry (Can’t Catch Me), Bo Diddley (Bo Diddley) and Jimmy Reed (Shame, Shame, Shame).

They did range more widely, though:
Creepy John (1965 #48 Melbourne) is a blues song by John Koerner, originally on Blues, Rags And Hollers (1963) by ‘Spider’ John Koerner, Dave ‘Snaker’ Ray And Tony ‘Little Sun’ Glover.
• The B-side of Mojo Working, Follow Me Down, is their arrangement of the traditional Baby, Let Me Follow You Down, best known through Bob Dylan’s version and as a source for The Animals’ Baby Let Me Take You Home (1964).

* Main source, recommended reading: “The Spinning Wheels” by Keith Glass at Milesago has the essential details and plenty of insight (which I have brutally précised above).

Further sources and reading: 1. “The Spinning Wheels get their mojo working”, ABC Radio National transcript, 2015. 2. Blogpost about The Spinning Wheels at Holy go-go boots, Batman! 3. Friends of the Spinning Wheels Facebook Group. 4. Line-up instruments from Chris Spencer et al, Who’s Who of Australian Rock (2002 edition).

Recommended reading: She’s a Mod by Kay Stammers is her memoir of offstage encounters with pop bands when she was a starstruck 16-year-old in mid-60s Melbourne. The Spinning Wheels feature and The Stones make an appearance.

Manfred Mann - Got My Mojo Working (1964)

(Preston Foster [label credits Morganfield])
Influential version

On album The Five Faces Of Manfred Mann, September 1964 by chart-topping r&b-oriented British band with vocals by Paul Jones (replaced by Mike D’Abo in 1966).

Credited here to Morganfield (Muddy Waters), by the time the song was reissued on a 1977 EP the writer credit was to Preston.

ABC Radio’s Rare Collections feature on The Spinning Wheels tells about the band meeting Manfred Mann when they were in Melbourne in January 1965:

The Spinning Wheels told the group that they loved their version of Got My Mojo Working and that they were considering recording it themselves the following month. Manfred Mann lead singer Paul Jones was encouraging, and even took some time to share harmonica techniques he’d learned from touring American artists.

The Spinning Wheels get their mojo working. Rare Collections, ABC Radio National 2015

Recommended reading: Bruce Eder’s biography of Manfred Mann at AllMusic: An R&B band that only played pop to get on the charts.

Ann Cole with The Suburbans - Got My Mo-Jo Working (But It Just Won’t Work On You) (1957)

(Preston Foster)

Single on Baton, March 1957. Reviewed in Billboard 30 March 1957 and boosted in Ren Grevatt’s On The Beat column.

Ann Cole’s record was issued around the same time as the Muddy Waters version and is usually cited as the earlier release, but I have instead ordered them according to their Billboard review dates. Muddy Waters (below) was reviewed two weeks before Ann Cole.

Muddy Waters - Got My Mojo Working (1957)

(Preston Foster [label credits Morganfield])
Influential version

Single on Chess March 1957. Reviewed in Billboard 16 March 1957.

Muddy Waters heard Ann Cole performing Got My Mo-Jo Working on tour in November 1956 when she was backed by his band. Upon his return to Chicago in December 1956 he recorded the song, pepping up the rhythm and changing some words. The record was released in March 1957 around the same time as Ann Cole’s own version.

Muddy’s version became better known, even identified with him, and the writing credit on subsequent versions was usually to McKinley Morganfield, his birth name. After a later legal settlement Preston Foster collected royalties and his name became the correct writer credit, although Waters/McKinley was still seen.

Preston Foster is shown as the copyright-holder at BMI (Work ID 684541: full title I’ve Got My Mojo Working).

Ann Cole - Got My Mo-Jo Working (But It Just Won’t Work On You) (1956)

(Preston Foster)
Original version: live performance

Ann Cole performed the song on tour with Muddy Waters in November 1956, and she taught the song to his band.

Her recording on Baton (above) was released in March 1957, around the same time as Muddy Waters’ version which he had recorded in the meantime with some changes.

According to Baton Records’ Sol Rabinowitz, Ann Cole recorded the song in the same session as her hit In The Chapel (October 1956) but it remained unreleased while she went on tour in November.

Got My Mo-Jo Working was written by Preston Foster (aka ‘Red’). It was published by Dare Music, Baton Records’ publishing arm, after Foster presented his songs to label owner Sol Rabinowitz.

The copyright of Got My Mo-Jo Working was registered to Preston Foster on 8 January 1957 (Catalog of Copyright Entries 1957 Music Jan-June).

Every six months, I send Preston a cheque. He’s basically still making a living from this song…

Sol Rabinowitz 1998

Disambiguation: The actor-songwriter Preston Foster (1900-1970) is a different person.

Selected references: 1. Robert Gordon, Can’t be satisfied: the life and times of Muddy Waters (2002) pp.149-150 [Internet Archive: free registration]. 2. David Menconi, “Songs of Sol” (profile of Sol Rabinowitz), The News and Observer (Scranton PA), 15 Feb 1998, p 175. 3. Sol Rabinowitz, “The Baton Label: A Fifties Music Pioneer” at DareMusic.com. 4. The Wikipedia article on the song has a useful list of references.