#848: Who Do You Love by The Woolies

Peak Month: April 1967
10 weeks on Vancouver’s CFUN chart
Peak Position #11
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #95

In 1943 Bob Baldori was born in Pennsylvania. His father, John Baldori, played the trumpet while his mother, Lucille, had sung in a big band John Baldori was a trumpeter in. After the war the family relocated to Dearborn, Michigan. John Baldori worked at Ford Motors, a side job at Detroit Tiger’s games and playing at jazz clubs in Detroit. At the age of three, Bob Baldori was introduced to the player piano at his grandfather’s home. By the age of five he started to learn piano. Bob’s youngest brother, Jeff (born 1951), also took piano lessons. Bob was influenced by Oscar Peterson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino and Duke Ellington.

About six blocks away from the Baldori family fellow Dearborn resident Bill “Bee” Metros whose father owned a neighborhood tavern in Dearborn named the Aviation Bar. His father came to America from Greece in 1912 and young “Bee” Metros was influenced by he heard at Greek Festivals. By grade four he began to learn to play drums. While his parents paid for a drum set, Bill paid for all his cymbals from money he earned as a paper boy. Bee practiced so hard in his bedroom that he put a crack in the ceiling of the downstairs dining room. He went on to play in school marching and concert bands. His favorite drummers were Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich. Bill Metros got his “Bee” nickname from a two-year-old nephew in Dearborn who wasn’t able to pronounce Bill so it came out “Uncle Bee.” At high school friends taunted him with the moniker “Uncle Bee” until it was shortened to Bee.

When they were 14 years old, Bee Metros and Bob Baldori met. They began to get contracts to play local clubs with local vocalist  Maury Dean. They were called Maury Dean & the Night Shift. In 1963 the band recorded “Catch You Later,” a minor hit in the Detroit area. A year later Bob Baldori had gigs at Michigan State University fraternity parties. He was approached that summer by Bill Armistead who wanted to form a folk-rock group. Armistead had recruited singer and guitar player, Bob “Stormy” Rice, from Corunna, and Bob Hill, a bass player from Lansing, Michigan. After a few rehearsals with the band, Bob Baldori, noting the band had no drummer, advanced “Bee” Metros as a potential drummer for the band. Once the band began to rehearse it was clear they wanted to do blues and rock ‘n roll, not folk music. So Armistead left and Baldori, Hill, Rice and Metros became The Woolies. However, Bob Hill, fearing his father’s reaction to him growing long hair, quit the band. Bob’s younger brother, Jeff Baldori, became the new bass player. “Bee” Metros credits Bob Baldori with dreaming up the band’s name, The Woolies,” on the way to a recording session in Chicago. The name “had to do with the way we looked, four boys from Michigan wearing flannel shirts and we all had long curly hair. It just seemed to fit.”

Stormy Rice was a big fan of Bob Dylan and it was Dylan’s “Black Crow Blues,” that became The Woolies debut single, featuring Rice on lead vocal. The 45 got some airplay in Lansing but was only a local hit. The Woolies became a staple on the circuit of teen clubs. The Baldori’s parents had mixed feelings about Jeff being in a band since he only 14. This meant Jeff was having to skip school in order to play some gigs in bars. The band became regulars at the Fat Black Pussycat, an East Lansing coffeehouse. Stormy Rice booked some of the bigger acts in the folk music scene to play at the Fat Black Pussycat including Phil Ochs, John Hammond, and Tom Rush. When The Woolies saw Tom Rush sing an acoustic version of “Who Do You Love,” originally composed and recorded by Bo Diddley in 1956.

This inspired The Woolies to record an electric version of the song. The song became a Top Ten hit in Lansing, Michigan, in the winter of 1966. The Woolies were also among the featured artists performing at the October 6, 1966 opening of Detroit’s Grande Ballroom.

Around this time The Woolies got a chance to record at Motown’s Studio A, for an audition. Motown was exploring signing some white recording artists. However, they ended up signing a garage band called the Underdogs, who later had a Top Ten hit in Detroit in 1967 titled “Love’s Gone Bad.”

The Woolies also entered the Vox Band of the Land competition to get a record contract. A series of semi-finals took them to the State Fairgrounds in Detroit and the concert that followed the competition was headlined by Johnny Rivers and the Lovin’ Spoonful. The Woolies won 1st prize and Vox flew them with equipment to LA. Though the initial record deal didn’t materialize, The Woolies pounded the pavement and got a record contract with Dunhill Records on the strength of their regional hit in Lansing.

Who Do You Love by The Woolies

I walk 47 miles of bob wire,
use a cobra-snake for a necktie
got a brand new house on the roadside
I said, it’s made from rattlesnake hide.
Brand new chimney, baby, built on top
I said, it’s made out of a human skulls
Come on take a walk with me, Arlene
ya tell me, who do you love?

Who do you love?
Who do you love?
Who do you love?
Who do you love?

I got a graveyard hand, I got a tombstone mine,
yeah, I’m just 21 and I don’t mind dying.

Who do you love?
Who do you love?
Who do you love?
Who do you love?

Well, I got a bad green eye and it looks through you.
Who do you love?
I got a bear in the roots, I gotta conjure-oo,
I’m the kind of man for a girl like you.
(Oh get it).

Night was dark, I said, the sky was blue,
down the alley, the ice-wagon flew
Heard a bump, yeah, someone screamed.
You should have heard just what I seen.

Who do you love? (come on and tell me)
Who do you love? (I gotta know) 
Who do you love? (come on now)
Who do you love?

Arlene grabbed me by the hand,
she says, ‘Cool me Stormy, you’re my man.”

Who do you love? (ya)
Who do you love? (Come on now)
Who do you love? (Ohh)
Who do you love?

“Who Do You Love” peaked at # 95 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song climbed to #2 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Sacramento, California, and #3 in Detroit, Michigan and Troy, NY, #4 in Windsor, ON, #5 in Cleveland and Dallas, and #6 in Toledo, Ohio, and #10 in Miami, while in Vancouver it peaked at #11.

The Woolies sung lyrics to “Who Do You Love?” varied from the original lyrics by Bo Diddley. His third verse contained these words: “I rode around the town, use a rattlesnake whip, Take it easy Arlene, don’t give me no lip.” In contrast, The Woolies sing: “Well, I got a bad green eye and it looks through you. Who do you love? I got a bear in the roots, I gotta conjure-oo, I’m the kind of man for a girl like you.”  

Bo Diddley’s original lyrics “Arlene grabbed me by the hand, she said, ow wee Bo, I understand.” With the Woolies the lyrics are rendered “cool me Stormy, you’re my man.” Stormy refers to The Woolies’ lead vocalist, Stormy Rice. The combination of Stormy Rice’s snarled vocals and the fuzzed guitar and Farfisa organ on the verses made the song menacing.

The song’s lyrics present a series of images. They could be totems or signs of initiations the singer has had to go through and emerged victoriously from in order to obtain a cobra-snake necktie, a house made out of rattlesnake hide and a chimney made out of human skulls. The song’s lyrics stand in a chasm where life and death meet. There’s a tombstone mine and a graveyard hand, an eye that looks through others and an ice-wagon, a nickname for a hearse. Though the man is young, just twenty-one, he doesn’t mind dying. For the woman in the song, Arlene, this is all fine with her. After the singer tells asserts, “I’m the kind of man for a girl like you,” she says “Cool me, Stormy, you’re my man.” Relationships are often full of surprises, and some are unwelcome. In this case, the singer lets all the skeletons out of the closet from the start. If Arlene’s okay with this kind of a man, what she sees is what she’s going to get.

“Who Do You Love” is influences by the West African spiritual tradition of hoodoo that was brought over the Atlantic Ocean by African slaves who continued to practice its folk magic beliefs in Louisiana and Mississippi. The use of the homonym “who do” is an allusion to “hoodoo.” The word hoodoo originates from Hudu, which is the name of a language and a Ewe tribe in Togo and Ghana. The word, hoodoo, was first referenced in Webster’s dictionary in American English in 1875 and was used as a noun describing the practice of hoodoo. It was also used as a transitive verb, as in “I hoodoo you,” the act of conjuring a spell. The hoodoo could be manifest in a healing potion, or in the exercise of a parapsychological power, or as the cause of harm which befalls the targeted victim. In African-American communities in the southeastern United States, hoodoo describes a paranormal consciousness or spiritual hypnosis, a spell. Alternately, hoodoo is also used as an adjective for a practitioner of hoodoo, such as hoodoo man. In the Woolies version of the song, the roots that are part of the hoodoo man’s powerful spell include some essence of bear in order to conjure the spell, or to put a spell on someone. The lyrics Bo Diddley wrote set a hoodoo man further west to Southwestern United States, as his power is found in things he’s acquired that would more likely be found in New Mexico or Arizona: a rattlesnake hide, a cobra-snake necktie etc.

The Woolies soon appeared on Swingin’ Time, a Detroit show hosted by Robin Seymour. They also were featured on a Cleveland TV show called Upbeat, hosted by Don Webster, which gave The Woolies a chance to see James Brown perform. “Who Do You Love” was featured a few times on American Bandstand. However, The Woolies were never invited to be guests on the program.

“Who Do You Love” opened doors for The Woolies to perform in a lot of different venues in Detroit including the Detroit Olympia, Cobo Hall, the Eastown Theatre and the Grande Ballroom in Detroit. In Chicago, The Woolies performed at McCormick Place, Wrigley Field and the Apollo theater. They also were featured at the Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. But in most of these settings the Woolies were near the bottom of the program serving as an opening act for headlining Motown recording artists.

The Woolies follow up single, “Duncan And Brady,” peaked at #1 in Lansing, Michigan, and #3 in Jackson, Michigan, but didn’t chart nationally in the USA. Another single released in 1970, “Vandegraf’s Blues,” reached the Top 20 in several radio markets in Michigan. After relocating to nearby East Lansing the group continued performing into the late ’70s.

After Rice exited in 1968 to pursue an ill-advised solo career. The Woolies got multi-instrumentalist Zocko Groendahl to join the band toured extensively. In the late 60s The Woolies became Chuck Berry’s backing band of choice when he was touring in the Great Lakes states and the mid-west. Bob Baldori recalls, “Chuck was a terrific musician. He could hold up three fingers which meant he was playing in E flat and we knew what he was talking about.” The Woolies began making very good money as a result of their association with Chuck Berry. In the late 60s a gig would pay between $300 and $400. But with Chuck Berry the Woolies could often make between $1,000 and $1,500 per night. This led to the Woolies backing numbers of other recording acts on tour including Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, Del Shannon, Stevie Wonder, Bobby Sherman, Gary U.S. Bonds and Bo Diddley.

In 1971 The Woolies released their debut album, Basic Rock. In 1973 they released a live album, Live at Lizard’s. Lizard’s was an East Lansing, Michigan, nightclub on Abbot Road.

Stormy Rice went on to do some DJ work in Wisconsin and continues to perform music today. Jeff Baldori left the Woolies in the late 70’s and formed his own band called Blue Money. Bee Metros got his degree from MSU in Sociology in 1970. In 1975, he got his real estate license and sold real estate for the next 12 years as the Woolies were only playing on a limited basis. In 1989 Bee got a law degree where he initially focused on criminal work. He now devotes his time to wills, trusts, and estates. Metros also taught at Lansing Community College for 30 years. Bob Baldori went on to produce over 200 albums for a variety of recording acts. He wrote and starred in a rock musical titled Almost Famous. He also pursued a solo career and performed on the same stage as John Lee Hooker, John Hammond and others. Baldori went on to be an entertainment law attorney for many musicians.

December 11, 2018
Ray McGinnis

References:
Bo Diddley ~ History, Bo Diddley.com
The Woolies, Jeff Baldori Music.com
MRRL ~ Woolies, Michigan Rock and Roll Legends.com
Steve Seymour, Woolies Hit With Diddley Classic, Rock N Roll Graffiti Blogspot.ca
Catherine Yronwode, Hoodoo, Conjure, and Rootwork: African American Folk MagicLucky Mojo.com, Forrestville, California

For more song reviews visit the Countdown.

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