Young Jessie / Obediah Donnell “Obie” Jessie

By Gary:

This post started in a very different fashion. It all started for me, because of a single song, Mary Lou.  I was  working on the blog and a reference to this song came up. 

Now, mistakenly, I had  always thought that this song was written by Buddy Knox in 1957 and recorded by Ronnie Hawkins in 1959 – not so.  It was written by Obediah Donnell “Obie” Jessie, who was under contract to Modern Records.

But Obie also had a contract with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, so he changed his name for that contract to “Young Jesse”. 

Now when I discovered this fact, I remembered in 1957  purchasing a “45 rpm” record called “Shuffle in the Gravel”, by, guess who, “Young Jesse”. 

Well, yes, they are one and the same.  He is a fairly unknown artist who was there at the beginning and had an influence on quite a few people.  Let’s try and set the record straight:

  • young Jessie formed a vocal group called the Debonaires (which had as a member Richard Berry, who wrote “Louie Louie” for the Kingsmen);
  • he already was with one of the greatest songwriting duo’s, Leiber and Stoller;
  • after “Mary Lou” he wrote his next song with Buck Ram, who was an agent/writer/producer and who found Tony Williams and his brother and proceeded to put together a group called “The Platters”, wrote lyrics music and produced all of their hits;
  • he recorded with Mickey “Guitar” Baker, of Mickey and Sylvia fame, recorded with the Coasters, but he is really an unknown, sad;
  • he recorded “Mary Lou” in 1955; Buddy Knox covered it in 1957, Ronnie Hawkins did it in 1959, Steve Miller in 1973, Bob Seger in 1976, Gene Clark in 1977 and the list goes on.  He turned to Jazz in the Sixties and is still alive today at 75. 

I really had to do a lot or research and worked hard to get this correct, so I hope that everyone enjoys it. 

Young Jesse
Obediah Donnell “Obie” Jessie, born December 28, 1936, Lincoln ManorDallasTexas / Died  April 27, 2020 Age 83


1956 / “Hot Dog” / Modern Records (unreleased) / recorded before Elvis Presley


2007 Las Vegas/Legends of Doo Wop/ with Milton Love from the Solitaires, Herbie Cox from the Cleftones, Bobby Lewis and Jesse/


Young Jessie / It Don’t Happen No More / Viva Las Vegas 14 / backed by the VLV house band


2010 / Aug.14 Live in Kutens bensin Fårö-Gotland-Sweden / Pretty Soon


2012 / Sweden /Mary Lou / Shuffle in the Gravel /

This is the music I found:

1.  I Smell A Rat/ Modern/  January 1954


2.  Mary Lou/ Modern 961/ recorded with the Cadets/ June 1955


3.  Hit, Git and Split/ Modern 1002/ September 1956/ With Mickey Guitar Baker and Buck Ram


4.  Oochie Coochie/ Modern 1010/ December 1956


5.  Shuffle in the Gravel (writer)/ Atco 6101/ 1957/ Gary: I purchased this 45 rpm record.

Jessie’s father was a cook but had no musical background. His mother, Malinda (née Harris) was very musical, playing piano and other instruments; she had a brief musical career under the name Plunky Harris.  On his mother’s side of the family, Jessie was also kin to blues musician Blind Lemon Jefferson.

In 1946, he moved with his family to Los Angeles, where he began studying music, and formed a vocal group, The Debonaires, which also included Richard Berry.

In 1953, the group recorded Jessie’s song, “I Had A Love“, and the single was released under the name of The Hollywood Blue Jays. They then renamed themselves as The Flairs, and won a recording contract with Modern Records. Modern Music was an American record company and label formed in 1945 in Los Angeles by the Bihari brothers. 


However, in 1954 Jessie signed a solo contract with producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and began recording as “Young Jessie“. He said:

[The name] came about because I sounded like I was forty, like ancient for a boy of 17. I had this deep baritone voice and the Biharis wanted me to get close to the rock ‘n’ roll market. I could have called myself Obie Jessie but I didn’t want people to think I was old.

In 1955 he wrote and recorded the single “Mary Lou,” later covered by Ronnie Hawkins in 1959, Steve Miller Band in 1973, Bob Seger in 1976, Gene Clark in 1977 and The Oblivians in 1997.

In 1956, he released “Hit Git And Split“, co-written with Buck Ram and recorded in New York City with guitarist Mickey Baker

In 1957 he also briefly recorded with The Coasters (including harmony vocals on “Searchin’” and “Young Blood“), and appeared on records by The Crescendos and Johnny Morisette, as well as being a writer for other artists’ recordings, including The Chargers and Jimmy Norman.

He released the single “Shuffle In the Gravel“/”Make Believe“, again produced by Leiber and Stoller, on the Atco label in 1957.

Jessie then moved on to record jazz for the Capitol label, novelty records for Mercury in the early 1960s, and soul ballads for the Vanessa label in 1963, but with little commercial success.

He recorded some unreleased material for Jake Porter in the 1960s. He also did an album’s worth of songs owned by Harvey Fuqua in the 1970s that never got released. 

In 1972, he recorded a single as “Obe Jessie & The Seeds Of Freedom” for Stone Dogg Records.

He also formed a jazz group, the Obie Jessie Combo, which played club dates, and in 1976 became musical director for Esther Phillips.

In 1982 he toured in Europe and recorded jazz in Germany, and in 1983 performed at an “R & B Jamboree” in London, where he reportedly “astonished the audience with a charismatic performance.” 

He has also performed with Leon Hughes‘ group of The Coasters. As Obie Jessie, he later released several jazz albums, including What Happened To Jr. (1995), Here’s To Life (2002), and New Atmosphere (2009). 

He also recorded with Atlanta based saxophonist Bob Miles, and performed on the song “People The Time Has Come” with lyrics by Nadim Sulaiman Ali.

His younger brother DeWayne Jessie became an actor, and became well known as Otis Day in the film National Lampoon’s Animal House. Two of Young Jessie’s four children sang in a group called Wizdom in the 1980s – wikipedia


3 responses to “Young Jessie / Obediah Donnell “Obie” Jessie

  1. Richard Berry wrote and sang “Louie Louie” and it was released on the “Flip” record label in 1957. The” Kingsmen” covered it years later and made it a hit.

  2. Heh. I was just doing the same thing – researching “Mary Lou” – and wish I’d found this post first. It would have saved me a lot of time. Nice work.
    The nastiest cover version I found was by The Oblivions (1997).

    Young Jessie died 27 April 2020.

  3. Pingback: Omoplatoscopical Hot Links | Tacky Raccoons

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