Roland B. McRiver

In my comics feed yesterday (presumably originally in print on 2/11), a One Big Happy in which Ruthie uses a doll to take on the personality of Tina Turner covering the Creedence Clearwater Revival hit “Proud Mary” — “Rollin’ on the River”:

(#1) Ruthie burlesquing “Rollin’ on the River” as “Roland B. McRiver”

Background: the CCR song, the Tina Turner version, Tina Turner herself, the Tiny Tears doll — a ton of pop culture. And then Ruthie’s burlesque, which reproduces, in its mangled way (Joe: “Make her stop. PLEASE!”), all three verses of the original and its chorus.

“Proud Mary”. From Wikipedia:

“Proud Mary” is a rock n’ roll song written by John Fogerty and first recorded by his band Creedence Clearwater Revival. The song was released by Fantasy Records as a single from the band’s second studio album, Bayou Country, which was released by the same record company in January 1969. The single is generally considered to have been released in early January 1969, although at least one source states that it came out just before Christmas 1968. The song became a major hit in the United States …

The song is a seamless mix of black and white [Cajun] roots music …”Proud Mary” is … a steamboat traveling up and down the [Mississippi] river. Fogerty’s lyric sketches out a vivid picture of the protagonist finding a comfortable niche in a community of outsiders … The story connects back to Mark Twain; it brings the myth [of “the rambling man and life along the Mississippi”] into the sixties. [Campbell & Brody, Rock and Roll: An Introduction (2007)]

… Fogerty [has] explained that he liked Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and wanted to open a song with a similar intro (descending by a third), implying the way “Proud Mary” opens with the repeated C chord to A chord. Fogerty wanted to evoke male gospel harmonies, as exemplified by groups he was familiar with such as the Swan Silvertones, the Sensational Nightingales, and the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi; especially on the line, “Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river”; and in the guitar solo he did his, “best [imitation of] Steve Cropper.”

(#2) The original 1968/69 recording (with lyrics rather than images)

More from Wikipedia:

Ike & Tina Turner first covered “Proud Mary” in 1970. This version was released as a single from their Workin’ Together album and the song differed greatly from the structure of the original, but is also well known and has become one of Tina Turner’s most recognizable signature songs. The Turners’ version was substantially rearranged by Soko Richardson and Ike Turner. The song started off with a slow, sultry soulful tone in which Tina introduced the song and warned the audience that she and the band were gonna start it off “nice and easy” as “we never do nothing nice and easy” but said they would finish it “nice and rough” [INTRO below]. After the lyrics are first sung softly by the Turners, the song is then turned into a funk rock vamp with Tina and the Ikettes delivering gospel-influenced vocals.

(#3) Tina Turner’s 1971 cover of “Proud Mary”; her intro:

You know, every now and then
I think you might like to hear something from us
Nice and easy
But there’s just one thing
You see we never ever do nothing
Nice, easy
We always do it nice and rough
So we’re gonna take the beginning of this song
And do it easy
But then we’re gonna do the finish rough
This is the way we do “Proud Mary”

And we’re rolling, rolling, rolling on the river
Listen to the story

In Ruthie’s  version, this intro is replaced by a generic singer’s lead-in “I’d like to take you on a little trip…”

Tina Turner. From Wikipedia:

(#4) TT in a curly-haired stage (she’s run through many hairstyles) — most resembling Ruthie’s doll — on her 50th Anniversary Tour in 2009

Tina Turner (born Anna Mae Bullock, November 26, 1939) is an American-born Swiss[-nationality] singer-songwriter, dancer and actress. Turner rose to prominence with Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm before recording hit singles both with Ike and as a solo performer. One of the world’s best-selling recording artists of all time, she has been referred to as The Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll and has sold more than 200 million records worldwide to date. Turner is noted for her energetic stage presence, powerful vocals, career longevity and trademark legs.

Anna Mae Bullock was born in Nutbush, Tennessee. She began her career in 1958 as a featured singer with Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm, first recording under the name “Little Ann”. Her introduction to the public as Tina Turner began in 1960 as a member of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. Success followed with a string of notable hits credited to the duo, including “River Deep – Mountain High” (1966), “Proud Mary” (1971) and “Nutbush City Limits” (1973), a song that she wrote. Tina Turner married Ike Turner in 1962. In her autobiography, I, Tina (1986), Tina Turner revealed several instances of severe domestic abuse against her by Ike Turner prior to their 1976 split and subsequent 1978 divorce.

Tiny Tears. Another TT. From Wikipedia:

(#5) TT in her pink dress

Tiny Tears was a doll manufactured by the American Character Doll Company. She was introduced in 1950 and remained in production through 1968, when ACDC went out of business. Her distinguishing feature was her ability to shed tears from two tiny holes on either side of her nose when her stomach was pressed after being filled with water from her baby bottle. In 1959 Tiny Tears acquired “rock-a-bye” eyes that slowly closed when she was laid horizontally and gently rocked.

Tiny Tears was sold in a pink-and-white checked dress or a romper with a baby bottle and a small pipe that blew bubbles when filled with a soapy solution and inserted into the doll’s open mouth.

(TT gets a modest 1.7 out of 5 rating on Arnold’s Creepy Doll Scale.)

Ruthie’s burlesque. Ruthie’s version is very broad burlesque, quite far phonologically from the model (although it maintains the four-line tetrameter pattern of the model), which means that it works only if you recognize the model; it’s like the burlesques in Zippy the Pinhead, which I’ve posted about a number of times. Cleaned a lot of plates in Memphis becomes Eatin’ lots of paste in dumpsters, that sort of thing.

Although Ruthie’s versions of lyrics sometimes look like extended mishearings — mondegreens on steroids — this one looks intentional (again, like the burlesques in Zippy). Ruthie seems to be deliberately baiting her brother Joe, annoying the hell out of him.

The Tina Turner text, with lots of repetition excised, but keyed to Ruthie’s version, panel by panel:

VERSE 1 [panel 3]
I left a good job in the city
Working for the man every night and day
And I never lost one minute of sleeping
I was worrying ’bout the way the things might’ve been

CHORUS [panel 4]
You know that big wheel keep on turning
Proud Mary keep on burning
And we’re rolling, rolling, rolling yeah
Rolling on the river (the river)

VERSE 2 [panel 5]
Cleaned a lot of plates in Memphis
Pumped a lot of tane down in New Orleans
But I never saw the good side of the city
Until I hitched a ride on a riverboat queen

CHORUS [panel 6]
You know that big wheel keep on turning
Proud Mary keep on burning
And we’re rolling, rolling, rolling yeah (rolling)
Rolling on the river

VERSE 3 [panel 7 and 8 top]
If you come down to the river
I bet you gonna find some people who live
And you don’t have to worry if you got no money
People on the river are happy to give

CHORUS [panel 8 bottom]
Big wheel keep on turning
Proud Mary keep on burning
And we’re rolling, tell you rolling,
We’re rolling on the river

Ruthie varies the first couplet in the chorus with each repetition:

1 – Big Weasel keeps on learnin’
Ground round, it keeps on burnin’

2 – Hoe John keeps on farmin’
Big bees keep on swarmin’

3 – Big Edith keeps on darnin’
Peewee, he keeps on warnin’

And then finishes off with the same couplet each time:

Roland, Roland,
Roland B. McRiver

(thereby maintaining the association of her song with the model).

2 Responses to “Roland B. McRiver”

  1. thnidu Says:

    This may be my favorite of your posts, probably because of my love of music, “my drug of choice” as I call it– especially folk, folk-y, blues, & some pop– combined with my love of language and linguistics. Thank you. 🎶❤

  2. Sacrilegious puns for Pride Month | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] my 3/11/19 posting “Roland B. McRiver”: “the Creedence Clearwater Revival hit “Proud […]

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