If you bring up a song called Walk On The Wild Side, most people probably think you’re talking about Lou Reed’s record from 1973. That record is instantly recognizable, but younger listeners may think we’re talking about the record from Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch that rapped over an instrumental loop from Lou’s record.
No, today we’re looking for a record that had nothing in common with those two releases except for the title. The song started life in 1962 as a vocal sung by Brook Benton over the credits of the film Walk on the Wild Side. The song won an Oscar, but Brook’s recording barely missed the top forty.
The Jimmy Smith trio recorded a jazz version of the song later that year that got enough airplay and sales to reach #21. The album version of the song was nearly six minutes long, but it was cut in half and spread out over the two sides of the single release. Jimmy Smith was a jazz musician who played the organ and, ironically, the hit single was cut off before his solo began (although it was included on the flip side of the record).
The trio’s version of the song was also used in the soundtracks of the films The Color of Money in 1986 and Casino in 1995.
A live version features just the group rather than the Oliver Nelson big band that was featured on the first half of the single.