|Blind Willie McTell|
|The Allman Brothers Band|
|Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller)|
Even though the song was boycotted by the NAACP and other civil rights groups, it is unclear what the song is actually about. It dates back to the 18th Century, when a certain flint lock musket was called "Black Betty" (the Bam-a-Lam referring to the sound of the gun firing). It's been associated with a bottle of whiskey, a bullwhip, and a prisoner transfer wagon used in a penitentiary. It's also been associated with a motorcycle and a hot rod. Whatever your views on where it originated, it's obvious that the Ram Jam version has been wildly successful, having been covered by other bands, featured on movie soundtracks and video game soundtracks.
These three songs are just the tip of the iceberg. Stay tuned for more rock tunes with blues origins in the near future.