signifying (verb): a good-natured needling or goading especially among urban blacks by means of indirect gibes and clever often preposterous put-downs
Ricky Allen recorded the booming groover “I Can’t Stand No Signifying” on Jack Daniels’ West Side-based Four Brothers label round about 1966. Both Jack Daniels and Johnny Moore (the co-writer on this track) created blues-soaked soul cuts for a number of artists, including Junior Wells, throughout the late 1960s.
Ricky Allen, a native Nashvillian, came to Chicago in 1958, and was very popular on the blues club circuit in the 1960s. One of his songs, Mel London’s “Cut You A-Loose” charted on the R&B Charts in 1963, and even got heavy airplay on Top 40 pop station WLS. Allen recounted in a 1993 Chicago Tribune interview with Bill Dahl:
“I got back, man, WLS – they didn’t play no blues. (But) Every time you turned on the station, it was on.”
“Signifying” has got exactly the sock it to me-slash-somebody’s ’bout to get cut vibe I love. To me, this gritty music is the link between the blues brought North in a satchel during the Great Migration and the glossier Chicago Soul (complete with lush strings and horns) that came later. Gotta love that piano riff at the top. Jive on.