K-Chuck Radio: The many branches of Bruce Channel’s one-hit wonder

You might hear this song once in a while on your oldies radio station, or maybe it’ll sneak in on your Pandora stream if the settings are just right.  But for nearly sixty years, this track has evolved and grown, its influence has spread around the world, and even today the song is referenced by people who weren’t even BORN when the original track was released.

The song – is Bruce Channel’s “Hey! Baby.”

You must have heard it at some point in time, right?

So this track went to #1 in 1961, and stayed at the top of the charts for three weeks.  The song was Channel’s biggest – and, to this day, only – Top 10 hit.  But let’s take a deep dive into this track and where it’s gone from here.

That harmonica riff at the beginning of the song – that’s from musician Delbert McClinton.  And a year after “Hey! Baby” became a major hit, McClinton was on tour in England.  After a show, some local musicians met McClinton, and McClinton offered them harmonica tips and suggestions.  And those musicians took those harmonica tips and suggestions – along with some very close replication on the “Hey! Baby” opening riff – for the opening riff of their first charted record.

Maybe you know of these local English musicians…

Here’s that hit they had.

Oh, and I should note that twenty years after “Hey! Baby,” Delbert McClinton had his own Top 40 hit.  This track, “Giving It Up For Your Love,” peaked at #8 on the pop charts in 1980.  Not saying that McClinton was a one-hit wonder, either – he had several hits on the country music charts, and artists like Tanya Tucker and Emmylou Harris recorded his songs.

But let’s get back to the song in quesiton, “Hey! Baby.”  Nearly 15 years after Bruce Channel had the original hit, the song became a pop hit all over again for Canadian pop singer Anne Murray, who brought her own sweet sound to the gender-switched track.

I should also note that the song crossed paths with the Beatles one more time – well, with Ringo Starr, as he used the melody of “Hey! Baby” as part of his hit “A Dose of Rock and Roll.”  You can hear “Hey! Baby” at about 2:51 of this video.

Oh yeah, Ringo also covered “Hey! Baby” as a full-length track on that same Ringo’s Rotogravure album, just in case you were wondering.

That’s a nice-enough life for this song … and then we get to the year 2000.  An Australian recording artist, DJ Ötzi, dusts off the old Bruce Channel track, gives it a bit of panache, and next thing you know … the song’s a big hit all over again.  It became a theme for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, which certainly helped the song’s status and longevity.

So now the song – complete with additional “ooh ahh” chant – has spread to the UK sports fans, who have used it as a chant for various sports heroes, including darts player Tony O’Shea…

And eventually, it got attached to professional wrestler Bayley, because it’s only a small leap from “Hey Baby” to “Hey Bayley,” amirite?

And where does this all lead?  The song itself … which was a #1 hit WAY back in 1961 … and has traveled around the world … last week, it ended up as a punchline in a professional wrestling angle, where Bayley’s tag team partner left her hanging high and dry, and just as the IIconics, the WWE women’s tag team champions, arrived in the building, they couldn’t resist giving Bayley a bit of a serenade.

Think about it … what other pop song can have a varied and well-traveled life expectancy like this?

If I think of another one … I’ll certainly add it to the K-Chuck Radio playlist.  😀