I like to consider myself somewhat of a music savant. I can accurately whistle a scary amount of songs, many of which I’m not even sure how I know. I can usually “Name That Tune” in four notes or less. But when my brother-in-law, a fellow Smack Dab Middle Child (2nd of three boys), recently asked if I remember Janice McClain’s 1979 Disco hit, “Smack Dab in the Middle,” I came up empty.
Was I losing my Middle Child music mojo? And of all songs not to remember, how could it be that one? How could I not remember? I mean, I spent a lot of time at discos in the 70’s. Ohhh, maybe that explains my memory loss. But where was I... oh, yeah... after searching for the song online, it all came back to me. I was struck with a severe case of Saturday Night Fever and found myself lost in a Disco Inferno wanting More, More More. And while I was disappointed to learn my Latin Hustle is not what it used to be, my journey of disco discovery did yield a pleasant surprise: a second song called “Smack Dab in the Middle” -- and not some disco one hit wonder, either. This second Smack Dab song was actually the first, written by R&B musician/songwriter Jesse Stone, recorded and released in 1955 under his performing alias, Charlie Calhoun and his Orchestra and Chorus.
While Stone's best known composition was “Shake, Rattle, and Roll,” the rock and roll classic made famous by Bill Haley & His Comets, his “Smack Dab in the Middle” is no slouch. 68 different cover versions of the song are listed at secondhandsongs.com -- Count Basie with Joe Williams, Connie Francis, Nancy Wilson, George Jones and Johnny Paycheck, The Chambers Brothers, Buster Poindexter and many others all took a shot at it. Oooh, make that 69. I found another one by a group called Almost Blue. Ray Charles probably had the most success with his 1964 cover. It remained on Billboard's Hot 100 for seven weeks.
I realize it’s hardly the most covered song of all time. According to many lists, that honor belongs to The Beatles’ “Yesterday,” with more than 2,000 recorded cover versions. But The Independent ranked the Rolling Stones “(I can’t get no) Satisfaction” at number five with 98 recorded covers, so “Smack Dab” isn’t that far behind. If a few more covers are uncovered, who knows -- it might be in the Top 20! And I never even knew it existed until a few weeks ago? Sounds to me like a classic case of musical Middle Child Syndrome.