This song started as an improvisation by Ray Charles in 1958. It was recorded by Ray Charles in 1959 and released as a single in two parts. It reached number six on the Billboard chart and number one on the R&B chart. Paul McCartney bought the single the day it was released.
The song was part of The Beatles repertoire and Paul took the lead vocals. It’s repetitive nature allowed them to double the song’s length to 13 minutes. A home recording made by Rory Storm and The Hurricanes in 1960 was released in 2012 on the album Live At The Jive Hive March 1960. Tony Sheridan released a live version of the song in 1963 under the name Dan Sherry with Star Combo. It was released on the album Twist At The Star-Club Hamburg. Gerry And The Pacemakers recorded the song in 1965 for their album I’ll Be There. A version by them, recorded in 1961, was released in 2003 on the album Unearthed Merseybeat. A live version recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis at the Star-Club was released in 1964 on the album Live At The Star Club, Hamburg. Another live version recorded at the Star-Club by The Searchers was released in 1963 on the album “Sweets For My Sweet” – The Searchers At The Star-Club Hamburg. A live version recorded by The Big Three at The Cavern was released in 1963 on the EP At The Cavern.What’d I Say went on to influence the sound of The Beatles’ 1965 song I’m Down.
The song has also been covered by The Applejacks and Freddie And The Dreamers. The Beatles played the song during the Let It Be sessions in 1969. It was also played during a jam session on John Lennon’s birthday in 1971. The jam included John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Ringo Starr and Phil Spector among others. Paul McCartney picked the song when he appeared on BBC Legends in 2007.
Now Hear This : What’d I Say – Dan Sherry with Star Combo (1963)
What’d I Say – The Big Three (1963)
What’d I Say – The Searchers (1963)
What’d I Say – Gerry and The Pacemakers (1965)
I’m Down – The Beatles (1965)
What’d I Say – Gerry and The Pacemakers (2003)
What’d I Say (Incomplete) – Rory Storm and The Hurricanes (2012)