Hello Mary Lou

There are two credited writers of this song and they are Gene Pitney and Cayet Mangiaracina.  Ricky Nelson’s father Ozzie, a popular bandleader and star (along with Ricky and the rest of his family) of the TV series The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, played tenor guitar on this song.  The solo is by Nelson’s guitarist James Burton, who later joined up with Elvis Presley.  Several acts have done popular covers of this song, including Brownsville Station, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Creedence Clearwater Revival and even Led Zeppelin.  When Ricky Nelson entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, he was inducted by John Fogerty of Creedence.

The song features an influential guitar solo by James Burton, piano is by Ray Johnson, and other musicians on the record include Joe Osborne on bass and Ritchie Frost on drums.  Hello Mary Lou was not strictly an original composition.  Pitney reworked a version of an earlier song ‘Merry, Merry Lou’, recorded by a band called The Sparks in 1957, which was covered later that year by Bill Haley & His Comets, as ‘Mary Mary Lou’.  The composer of the track was Cayet Mangiaracina, band member of The Sparks, who would later become ordained as a Catholic priest.  When Hello Mary Lou was released, the recording company Decca sued for plagiarism of this song and won.  Mangiaracina was awarded writer co-credits for Hello Mary Lou as composer of the original song.

Unlike virtually every other early rocker, who worked his way up in the music business starting with small clubs, county fairs and seedy venues, Rick Nelson began at the top.  His father Ozzie Nelson was a successful bandleader who started a family comedy show on radio in the 40s that featured his wife Harriet and sons David and Ricky.  The show was a big success and in the 50s transferred to television, where it became one of the longer-running shows in TV history.

As a result, the goofy younger brother Ricky was already a household name when he developed an interest in rock and roll in the mid-50s.  With his stunning good looks and pleasing voice, Ricky’s singing success seemed like a sure thing.  After Ricky’s cover of Fats Domino’s I’m Walkin’ made it into the Billboard Top 10 in 1957, Ozzie began featuring Ricky singing on his TV show, where he quickly became a teen idol.

The song is a bubbly, bouncy, catchy ditty buoyed by a terrific performance from Nelson’s band.  There is liberal use of cowbell, and the guitar and piano carry the song along rapidly.  However, the centerpiece of Hello Mary Lou is James Burton’s inspired guitar solo.  It was extremely influential, setting the tone for future country-rock classics and was widely imitated by later musicians.

In 1968 Jimmy Page’s band The Yardbirds was winding down, and Page envisioned assembling a rock supergroup.  After contacting various British rock musicians, he settled on a quartet with himself on guitar, John Paul Jones on bass, John Bonham on drums and vocalist Robert Plant.  Led Zeppelin were an incredibly successful combo.  They combined tremendous virtuosity with an exceptional musical range. Although they were known as the quintessential heavy-metal band, they also produced some exceptional acoustic music.

Led Zeppelin did a take of Hello Mary Lou on their triple live album How the West Was Won.  James Burton was one of Jimmy Page’s idols as a youth way before he formed Led Zeppelin, and Robert Plant has won awards for his duets with roots folksinger Allison Krause.  The Led Zeppelin version of this country-rock classic was usually played mixed in with other songs like ‘Whole Lotta Love/Boogie Chillun/Let’s Have a Party/Hello Marylou/Going’.

Hello Mary Lou, goodbye heart
Sweet Mary Lou, I’m so in love with you
I knew Mary Lou, we’d never part
So hello Mary Lou, goodbye heart
You passed me by one sunny day
Flashed those big brown eyes my way
And oo I wanted you forever more
Now I’m not one that gets around
Swear my feet stuck to the ground
And though I never did meet you before
I said, hello Mary Lou, goodbye heart
Sweet Mary Lou, I’m so in love with you
I knew Mary Lou, we’d never part
So hello Mary Lou, goodbye heart
I saw your lips I heard your voice
Believe me I just had no choice
Wild horses couldn’t make me stay away
I thought about a moonlit night
My arms about good an’ tight
That’s all I had to see for me to say
Hey, hey, hello Mary Lou, goodbye heart
Sweet Mary Lou, I’m so in love with you
I knew Mary Lou, we’d never part
So hello Mary Lou, goodbye heart
So hello Mary Lou, goodbye heart
Yes hello Mary Lou, goodbye heart

Written for Sandi Flip Flops Every day October 18, 2017 Manic Monday #7 Challenge – Hello Again

10 thoughts on “Hello Mary Lou

  1. That solo by James Burton is iconic, and got a lot of guys into guitar. It’s absolutely perfect, sixteen bars of some of the cleanest guitar playing you’ll ever hear. Every time that song comes on, I stop and listen, amazed that something so simple would mean so much to so many guitar players.

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