Ram Jam is known as a one hit wonder band, recognized for their rendition of Leadbellys, “Black Betty”. They really made this song their own by taking the original few word, 59 second version and creating their own hit.
This version done by Ram jam is known to be a bit controversial. At the time it came out in the year 1977, it was believed to be about an Alabama black woman who had a child gone wild. Many civil rights activists including the NAACP tried to intervene saying this song was disrespectful to black women due to the harsh lyrics. But, despite all the controversy, the song reached number 18 on the singles chart in 1977 in the United States.
Since the band broke up, the lead singer, Myke Scavone resides in New Jersey and fronts his former teenage garage rock band called, “The Doughboys”.
It is understandable why these lyrics could have caused controversy at the time, however; from the bands perspective, It is important to note the time period that this song was made in. It was the end of the Vietnam war and a time of free thought and expression. People wanted to live in harmony and promote peace amongst themselves. “Black Betty” was more so an exciting concept that this band tried to convey, in my opinion.
As for the meaning, there are many theories on what this song meant, but no definite answers. There are many theories about what or who “Black Betty” was. From a musket, to a woman, to a whip. I don’t think we’ll ever know for sure, but it doesn’t matter because this song just exudes a flavor of 70′s rock & roll that is undeniably irresistible.