“Susie Q” is a song by Louisiana-born singer and guitarist Dale Hawkins (1936–2010). He wrote the song himself, but when it was released, Stan Lewis, the owner of Jewel/Paula Records, and Eleanor Broadwater, the wife of Nashville DJ Gene Nobles, were also credited as co-writers to give them shares of the royalties.
Hawkins cut “Susie Q” at the KWKH Radio station in Shreveport, Louisiana. “Susie Q” was a late rockabilly song which captured the spirit of Louisiana and featured guitar work by James Burton, who also worked with Ricky Nelson and later with Elvis Presley, among others.
Sometime after the recording, the master tape of “Susie Q” was sold to Checker Records in Chicago, which released it as a 45 RPM single in May 1957. The single peaked at numbers 7 and 27 on Billboard magazine’s Hot R&B Sides and Hot 100 charts, respectively.
Hawkins’ original version is also included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll”.
Many artists have covered the song.
The Rolling Stones
A fast version – with electric solo guitar performance by Keith Richards – is by The Rolling Stones, recorded February 25, 1964, released in the US on the album 12 X 5 in 1964 and in the UK on the album The Rolling Stones No. 2 in 1965. With its 1:49 running time it is one of the shortest songs The Rolling Stones ever made.
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Perhaps the most famous cover version is by Creedence Clearwater Revival on their debut album released in 1968. This song was one of their first big hits, and was the band’s only Top 40 hit that was not written by John Fogerty, peaking at #11, but made the top ten on some charts. (Their cover of Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” peaked at 43 on the US Billboard chart). The album version clocks in at 8:37. The single version is split into parts one and two. One difference is that in the single version, the jam session during the coda is omitted in part one. Instead, it fades out with the guitar solo right before the coda which fades in in part two on the B-side. At roughly 2 minutes into the song, the main Guitar riff from “Smokestack Lightnin'” by Howlin’ Wolf is played, although Howlin’ Wolf was not credited.
John Fogerty stated in a 1993 interview with Rolling Stone magazine that his purpose in recording “Susie Q” was to get the song played on KMPX, a funky progressive-rock radio station in San Francisco, which is why the song was extended to eight minutes in length.
Suzi Quatro made a version of the song in 1983, changing its title to “Suzi Q”. The song’s album, which initially also had the working title Suzi Q, was only released in 1997 (as Unreleased Emotion by Connoisseur Collection Records). This album was also re-released in 2012 by 7T’s Records.:4,9 The original version of the song featured as Quatro’s intro music at live concerts for several years.
Puerto Rican musician José Feliciano released his version of “Susie Q” as a single which reached #84 on the Billboard Hot 100. His version was rearranged and features several different lyrics.
Other cover versions
Lonnie Mack recorded an instrumental version for his debut 1964 album The Wham of that Memphis Man.
The Everly Brothers covered this song on their 1965 album Rock’n Soul.
Linda McCartney covered this song in Jamaica, leading to the name “Suzy and the Red Stripes”.
Les Sound Tracks recorded a French cover, titled “Jolie Fille” (1969).
Bobby McFerrin covered this song on his 1988 album Simple Pleasures.
Johnny Rivers covered this on his 1965 live album Meanwhile, Back at the Whiskey à Go Go
Flash Cadillac & the Continental Kids recorded the version on the Apocalypse Now movie soundtrack – used in the Playboy Playmates scene.
The Astronauts covered this song on their 1963 album Surfin’ with The Astronauts.