The Day Little Joe Cook Took Me to (Computer) School

Nice Steve Morse piece in yesterday’s Boston Globe about local blues fixture Little Joe Cook, who died last week at the age of 91.

Little Joe Cook, at 91; his falsetto on ‘Peanuts’ a huge hit

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Standing just under 5-foot-4, Little Joe Cook was short in stature, but he had no shortage of confidence. Performing up to five nights a week at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge during a 27-year run that stretched into his mid-80s, he often asked his audience: “Who is the Man?” Then he shouted in no uncertain terms, “I’m the Man!”

A galvanizing presence in Cambridge’s Central Square, Mr. Cook drew all ages, all races, and all manner of MIT and Harvard students into the gritty Cantab, a club that was a throwback in time, just as he was.

In 1957, he became a classic one-hit wonder in the music business when he wrote and sang the Top-40 hit “Peanuts,” which eventually sold 1 million copies. Mr. Cook, who rode that hit the rest of his career, singing in his high falsetto four sets a night as the Cantab crowds roared their support, died of cancer Tuesday in Oak Knoll Healthcare Center in Framingham. He was 91 and had lived in Framingham.

Another bag of Peanuts:



(Additional Little Joe Cook videos – via the Globe – here.)

Thirty years ago, the hardworking staff had its own encounter with Little Joe. We were working at an ad agency that had CGI (a computer school that’s now ITT Technical Institute) as a client. CGI wanted a radio campaign, so we composed the Bad Job Blues – a lyrical litany of employment woes that might lead one to seek other job opportunities via computer training.

Representative verses:

Well I got me a boss

‘Bout five-foot-three,

He don’t worry ’bout nothin’

He just tries to worry me.

I got the blues.

I got the Bad Job Blues.

There ain’t nothin’ in this world

Worse than the Bad Job Blues.

Then an announcer came on and said go to CGI and etc.

Back then, Little Joe Cook was the bullgoose Boston bluesman, so we hired him to do vocals for the spot. We’re in the studio, and here’s what Little Joe sang:

I got the blues.

I got the Bad Job Blues.

There ain’t nothin’ in this world

Worser than the Bad Job Blues.

Except Little Joe pronounced it woiser.

So, Jesuitically, we said, “It’s worse, Mr. Cook – worser isn’t really a word.”

Little Joe smiled at us and said, “Worser is better.”

And he was right: Our version was worser.

Rest in peace – and thanks – Little Joe Cook.


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2 Responses to The Day Little Joe Cook Took Me to (Computer) School

  1. Took you college boys to school, eh?

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