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Elvis SongPedia: Big Boss Man

Big Boss Man




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Basic Stats

(Just the facts, ma'am!)

Written by: Al Smith, Luther Dixon

Recorded: September 10, 1967, RCA Studios, Nashville.
Released master is take 11

Single: w/ "You Don't Know Me", RCA 47-9341, September 26, 1967
Also re-released as Gold Standard Series, 447-0662, July 15, 1969

Highest U.S. Charts Positions:
#38 on Billboard's Hot 100.

1st LP release: - November 19, 1967
Click to download or buy
"Big Boss Man"
now from CD Universe!



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For other versions, see
Lyrics and Downloads section below.



My Spin

(Just my opinion. Give us yours!)
Although written by bassist Al Smith and record producer Luther Dixon, "Big Boss Man" truly belongs to Jimmy Reed. After a stint in the Navy, Jimmy settled in Gary, Indiana, and signed on with the new Vee-Jay record label, and soon became one of its best-selling artists. His 1961 recording of "Big Boss Man" established the rhythm riff that would not only define subsequent versions of this song, but would influence many other songs of the 60s. The song has become something of a workplace anthem, too, the lyrics speaking to everyone's fantasy of telling off the boss:

Big boss man, can't you hear me when I call
You ain't so big... You're just tall, that's all!


This was 20 years before Johnny Paycheck's country anthem "Take This Job and Shove It!", but it grants the same wish! If you've ever even slightly not liked your job, then you can relate!

On September 10, 1967, Elvis had just completed a successful version of a song by another Reed, Jerry Reed's "Guitar Man", with Jerry playing guitar. Both Elvis and producer Felton Jarvis wanted to keep up the momentum and record something else while they had Jerry's great guitar work to boost the sound (and the mood!). They decided on Jimmy Reed's "Big Boss Man" and before long, had a great master take preserved on tape. Felton said to Elvis, "You did it like you were mad, like you were mean!"


However, before they could come up with a third song, Freddy Bienstock representing the Colonel began pressuring Jerry to give up some of his songwriter's publishing rights to Elvis (and the Colonel) for the recording of "Guitar Man". Jerry, knowing he had the upper hand since the recording was already in the can, rightly refused. This ended the session, as far as Jerry Reed's involvement, but luckily they'd gotten two great songs recorded first.

Elvis' version of "Big Boss Man" is faster than Jimmy Reed's original, and pretty tough, considering the stuff Elvis had been recording around that time. On lines like "rest easy at night", he does sound downright mean, as Felton said. He was definitely biting into it! This was a far cry from some of the movie fluff he'd recorded just earlier that year, like "Old MacDonald"! NYAAAA! What was he thinking? (After writing this, I stumbled onto this interview with Ernst Jorgensen, who uses the same two songs as an example of the contrast in quality between Elvis songs of the same period. Aaahhh, great minds think alike!)


I think of this period of Elvis' recording career as a sort of "pre-comeback". From the "How Great Thou Art" / "Down In The Alley" sessions of 1966 through the "U.S. Male" / "Too Much Monkey Business" session of early 1968, Elvis was beginning to show some hints of what was to come.

In June of 1968, Elvis would include "Big Boss Man" in his comeback TV special, in a medley with "It Hurts Me" and with a kinda weird karate dance/fight scene!

Although it was never a regular in Elvis' 70s shows, he did sing "Big Boss Man" a few times in concert.

Oh, and another thing I always wondered: Was Elvis thinking of the Colonel when he sang this song? hmmmm...



Other Spins

(What did the critics and fans say?)


This unusually varied group of songs was not recorded with any definite project in mind, but includes some of the most important songs Presley recorded for years. A good example is 'Big Boss Man'. This is given a superb performance by all concerned and the overwhelming impression is of a powerfully-driven song. The guitar-work, possibly by Jerry Reed, is outstanding, and there are imaginative touches from Charlie McCoy's harmonica.

Robert Matthew-Walker, Elvis Presley: A Study in Music icon, 1979




Check out other Elvis fans' opinions on the Elvis News page for "Big Boss Man".





Check out other opinions at Rate Your Music


"Big Boss Man" Links


"Big Boss Man" Lyrics and Downloads

Big boss man, can't you hear me when I call?
Big boss man, can't you hear me when I call?
Can't you hear me when I call?
Well you ain't so big, you know you're just tall that's all

Well you got me workin' boss man
Workin' round the clock
I wanna little drink of water
But you won't let business stop
Big boss man now can't you hear me when I call?
I said you ain't so big, you know you're just tall that's all

I'm gonna get me a boss man
One who's gonna treat me right
I work hard in the day time
Rest easy at night
Big boss man, can't you hear me when I call? Can't you hear me when I call?
I said you ain't so big, you're just tall that's all

I'm gonna get me a boss man
One that's gonna treat me right
I work hard in the evenin'
Rest easy at night
Big boss man, big boss man, can't you hear me when I call?
I said you ain't so big, you're just tall that's all


Download the Karaoke Version!

Big Boss Man karaoke - Elvis PresleyBig Boss Man
Elvis Presley


Download or just listen to different versions by Elvis from CD Universe!

... or different versions by other artists!




Big Boss Man Videos



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What's YOUR Spin?!
What do YOU think Of "Big Boss Man"? Yea or Nea?

Yea! It's Boss, Man!

Nea! It Ain't So Big...


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Some Other Elvis Song Lists

Elvis Website Directories

  • ElvisStartPage - As the name implies, this is the place to start when looking for Elvis sites!
  • Elvis Presley - Another directory of Elvis websites. The place to go to find Elvis on the web!

Vote for my site at ElvisFind.com!


Study Up Some More!

iconicon Ernst Jorgensen's complete chronicle of Elvis' recording sessions, with loads of detailed information about each session and each song.
iconicon This is the definitive encyclopedia on Elvis' life details, as well as all the background and trivia you need for all the songs, movies, and TV appearances. Authors are Fred L. Worth and Steve D. Tamerius.
iconicon The subtitle of Ace Collins' book says it all: "The stories behind Elvis' #1 hits"!
iconicon "Elvis The #1 Hits: The Secret History of the Classics". Another self-explanatory book title. :)