Paul McCartney recorded a version of the American folk song ‘San Francisco Bay Blues’ for his 1991 album Unplugged (The Official Bootleg).

The song was written by Jesse Fuller. His 1954 recording was released the following year by the World Song label, but the song gained wider exposure after being recorded by artists including Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Bob Dylan, and Jim Kweskin.

This one was by Ramblin’ Jack Elliott – I had the record somewhere – and I think George Harrison used to do it. I nearly did ‘Bearcat Mama’, too, with those old-fashioned chord changes. ‘Your Feet’s Too Big’ by Fats Waller was in the same vein: it was just a bit of laugh. If a gig got a bit serious you could do ‘Your Feet’s Too Big’. The kids at the Cavern used to like it, it was a popular request with the girls.

So if I’ve got an acoustic guitar in my hand, I tend to play certain types of songs. It all comes from playing to my own kids, although there’s a slightly different set of songs that I have for them. They used to ask me to play guitar when they were going to bed and I’d just sit there for five or ten minutes, to send them to sleep, playing things like ‘Cut Across Shorty’, the Eddie Cochran song, which I nearly did for Unplugged. I have a little batch of songs like that, for kids or for when I’m on my own or at a party, and they tend not to be songs I’ve written but from my teenage years, when I used to sit at home and practice. I used to learn ‘Pink Champagne’ so that if anyone asked if I could play a solo, I’d say, ‘Well, do you know ‘Pink Champagne’?’ They’re little relics from my teenage years, really.

Paul McCartney
Club Sandwich, Summer 1991

The Beatles, minus George Harrison, performed a version of ‘San Francisco Bay Blues’ during the Get Back/Let It Be sessions on 14 January 1969.

John Lennon recorded an unreleased version of the song during the Imagine sessions in May 1971.

McCartney performed ‘San Francisco Bay Blues’ often during his solo concerts in San Francisco. It was played more frequently still at his soundchecks around the world.

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