Well, many years later in 2003 Country Joe was taken to court for copyright infringement by Babbette Ory, daughter of Kid Ory, who claimed it owed an awful lot to her father's tune "Muskrat Ramble". In fairness, she had a point: the first strain is pretty similar, the second is unmistakeable. Here is the original recording, Kid Ory playing in Louis' Hot Five.
Sadly for her, she lost the case: the court ruled that she had waited over 30 years to sue, and that was too long.
But who'd'a thunk it? Woodstock, the musical event that defined a generation, included a 54-year old tune! You really can't keep a good tune down, and it pops up in so many different styles and manifestations. Here are a few:
- The incomparable Sidney Bechet
- Classic Louis and Bing
- Vocal harmonies from the McGuire Sisters
- Guitar duet from Chet Atkins & Merle Travis
- Shuffling Rock 'n' Roll from Freddie Cannon
- and even ... Cha Cha from the Flippers
- and probably my favourite of these variants, a Joplinesque version by Harry Connick Jr
and for sheer joy:
Whoever wrote it, that's a song with some staying power. And in the end who did write it? Looking deeper we learn that Louis claimed "I wrote Muskrat Ramble. Ory named it. He gets the royalties. I don't talk about it.". Who knows? There are even suggestions that it's based anyway on a Buddy Bolden tune called "The Old Cow Died and the Old Man Cried". So maybe justice would not have been served by Babbette Ory winning her case after all.
It seems the original "Gimme an F" chant was a little more innocuous: take a peek here.