Bob & Earl – Harlem Shuffle


Bob & Earl


Listen – Bob & Earl – Harlem Shuffle – MP3″

UPDATE: Gabe from Second Line Social passed along a link to the obit of the versatile Earl Nelson, who passed away last week.

Check it out here….

Greetings all.

Last week was long and stressful (for me anyway), so I figured I owed it to myself and anyone that reads the blog to start the new week with a cathartic bang.
Said bang is one of the greatest of all soul 45s, a disc that carries in its grooves the power of a hundred average records, releasing a massive wave of soul when the needle makes contact with the wax.
The record I speak of, is ‘Harlem Shuffle’ by Bob and Earl.
I’ll assume that most of you – if unfamiliar with the OG – certainly know the song, either by use of the opening fanfare by House of Pain on ‘Jump Around’, or by the cover by the wizened, leathery band of hacks who go by the name Rolling Stones. Either way, no version of the song since Bob and Earl laid it down in 1963 has come within a mile of the original for pure sonic impact.
Bob & Earl, aka messrs Relf and Nelson are the axis on which turns a series of interesting stories. The original ‘Bob & Earl’ contained a different Bob, i.e. Bobby Byrd (not THAT Bobby Byrd) who also recorded ‘Rockin’ Robin’ as Bobby Day. Both Byrd and Earl Nelson had been members of the storied R&B group the Hollywood Flames, who hit with ‘Buzz Buzz Buzz’ in 1958. The first Bob and Earl 45s were recorded for the Class label that same year.
Byrd and Nelson recorded with the Hollywood Flames and as Bob and Earl until 1962, when Byrd was replaced by Bob Relf. Relf and Nelson recorded their first Bob and Earl 45s that same year.
Relf and Nelson, along with arranger Barry White (yes THAT Barry White, though Gene Page is credited on the label) and producer Fred Smith (who worked with the Soul Runners and the Watts 103rd St Rhythm Band) recorded ‘Harlem Shuffle’ for the Marc label in 1963, and the rest as they say is history.
The record itself – as I said before – is an atomic ass-kicker of the first order, dance floor gold and pure soulful amazement. It verily booms with the bass drum and the piano, the handclaps and the insistent chank of the guitar woven together masterfully. ‘Harlem Shuffle’ is truly one of those one-in-a-hundred records that ought to be placed on a musical Olympus, or distributed on a mass scale so that all might know its greatness.
Bob and Earl went on to record a number of excellent 45s for Chene, Tip, Loma, White Whale, Crestview, Uni and Mirwood. Earl donned a number of pseudonyms – the best known being Jackie Lee – to record several great records including ‘The Duck’, ‘The Shotgun and the Duck’.
I know you’ll dig this one.

I’ll be back later in the week with a hot, late summer mix for the Labor Day Weekend.

PSS Don’t forget to head over to Iron Leg for a bit of freakbeat!

PSSS Check out Paperback Rider as well.


15 Responses to “Bob & Earl – Harlem Shuffle”

  1. Tony C Says:

    Nice one Larry another of my all time favourites.Have you heard the Rockin Sidney version?
    A bit more info here, along with some nice pics.Wrote by Bobby Relf’s sister in law, Andrea.

  2. funky16corners Says:

    I haven’t heard the Rockin’ Sidney? Is it on Goldband or another label? I have a great version by Wayne Cochran, and of course there’s the cover by the Action which is cool too.

  3. Tony C Says:

    It’s on ZBC Records, Which I think stands for Zydeco, Blues and Country.They are based in Louisiana. No idea of the release date though.
    But if you like ya Harlem Shuffle with a bit of Zydeco this is the one for you.
    Cheers Tony,

  4. maxwell Says:

    Holy cow! What a rolling tune. Just rambles on past ya, then you gotta hear it again. Thanks.

  5. Michael J Says:

    there’s a faster 1966 version by Bob and Earl as well (or maybe just Earl, since it sounds like only one voice). released in the UK on Jay Boy as Earl Nelson (also on some issues of the Bob & Earl LP), not sure if there’s a US release or not though?

    think The Traits do a nice version too…
    also here’s Moroccan/French singer Vigon doing a good version (although his grasp of English seems a bit limited):

  6. Michael J Says:

    oh, and meant to say that the original Bob & Earl version is pretty well known in the UK, it got a release on Sue and was a top 10 hit in ’69

  7. JB Says:

    What a fantastic tune! Thanks, Larry.

    Anyone know who produced this cut? He’s a friggin genius whoever he is.

  8. funky16corners Says:

    The label says Gene Page but the I’ve always heard that it was in fact Fred Smith and aranger Barry White.

  9. JB Says:

    I gotta learn to RTFL someday… {8^0

  10. Second Line Social Says:

    Great stuff Larry,
    you probably heard already, but Earl passed on a couple weeks back.

    heres the link to the LA Times article…


  11. funky16corners Says:

    Sad news. I had not heard.
    I’ll add a link to the post.

  12. vinegar Says:

    I have Harlem Shuffle on a Rhino soul comp. A friend of mine turned me on to another single of theirs called “Puppet on a String” and I eventually found a copy. It’s a great song!

  13. Murray Says:

    I have to mention that the Jay Boy release and the Sue release in the UK are totally different versions. If you’re buying old vinyl definitely go for the one on Sue (which was reissued a few years later on Island). The Jay Boy version is an abomination.

  14. funky16corners Says:

    Were they recorded at different times or is it a mastering/mixing issue??

  15. Murray Abisch Says:

    They sound like totally different recordings to me.

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