Kenny Rogers And The First Edition
Kenneth Donald Rogers was born in Houston, Texas on 21 August 1938. He started performing in the 1950's, running through several musical genres from Doo Wop to Folk to Country, and passing briefly through Psychedelic Garage Rock along the way. Every stoner from the 1960's knows his version of this song, but most people don't know that he wasn't the first person to record the song.
Was this a drug song? The line, "I found my mind in a brown paper bag within" could refer to drinking cheap wine or sniffing glue from a brown paper bag. But it was originally written to describe the aftermath of an LSD trip. I suppose the way you interpret the song all depends on your particular mind-altering chemical of choice. The lyrics refer driving off the road at high speed and leaving one's soul in a deep dark hole. But I'll leave it up to you to determine if this qualifies as a "death" song.
On the studio recording for the single, Mike Deasy handles the acoustic guitar parts, while Glen Campbell plays the electric guitar with plenty of heavy compression and tremolo. Producer Mike Curb took one of the electric guitar riffs and played it backwards to create the psychedelic opening.
Although the song clearly paints a bleak picture about the aftermath of getting high, some heard it as a pro-drug message song back in the 1960's and tried to get radio stations to ban it. They were not successful. Kenny's version went to #5 of Billboard's Hot 100 in February 1968, and did even better on many local charts.
Jerry Lee Lewis
Jerry Lee Lewis was born on 29 September 1935 in Ferriday, Louisiana. The Killer's rock and roll career had stalled in the 1960's until he decided to start doing Country ballads.
This is the original version of Just Dropped In by Jerry Lee Lewis from his 1967 Soul My Way album on Smash 67097:
No, that's not a field of marijuana he's standing in on that album cover!
Kenny Rogers wasn't the only one to cover the song in 1968. Betty LaVette took a shot at a soul version as well.
Betty LaVette, who also recorded as Betty LaVett and Bettye LaVette, was born Betty Haskin on 29 January 1946 in Muskegon, Michigan. She started recording in 1962 and moved to New York in 1963 to become the featured vocalist for The Don Gardner Band. She went back to cutting solo singles in 1965. Any record you find of hers is worth keeping!
Here's What Condition My Condition Is In by Betty LaVette on Karen 1544 from 1968:
No version of this song ever showed up on the R&B charts. Maybe it was a little too early for blatant drug songs to appeal to that audience. In fact, it would take another year before ANY drug-related song would make the R&B charts, with the first one being Cloud Nine by The Temptations in 1969.
Just Dropped In was written by Mickey Newbury, who did his own version of it in 1968 after it became a hit for Kenny Rogers. He slowed it down considerably and added more of a hip Country flavor with a nice string section. His version is actually my personal favorite!
Here's Just Dropped In by Mickey Newbury from his 1968 album Harlequin Melodies on RCA Victor:
Mickey Newbury was born Milton Sims Newbury, Jr. in Houston, Texas on 19 May 1940. He started performing as a teenager with a group called The Embers. After a tour with the Air Force, he moved to Nashville to become a songwriter for Acuff-Rose Publishing. He passed away on 29 September 2002 from pulmonary fibrosis at age 62.
If you're old enough to remember watching Kenny Rogers And The First Edition on Shindig or The Smother Brothers or hearing Just Dropped In as a current hit on the radio, here's something that will make you feel really old. Here's Kenny Rogers doing this song many years later to an audience that probably never heard it before.
Now, if you wanna feel really old, try this 2008 hard rock cover of the song from a group called Children of Bodom:
You don't need drugs to get high, kids. All you need is a healthy dose of MusicMaster Oldies. Why not take a trip through the psychedelic sixties today?