45 Friday: WILMER & THE DUKES – I’m Free


By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

Today’s post is in honor of Independence Day. Celebrate freedom!

If the Founding Fathers would have been around in the late 1960s, they probably would have dug this track. They’d have dug the sentiment for sure! Though they may have looked askance at the British origin of this track.

“I’m Free” was written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Like a lot of their early compositions it may have been intended for other artists. The Rolling Stones were just coming out of their heavy purist Blues / R&B bag. Mick and Keith had been pitching most of their self-written songs to other artists, as they felt these songs were too ‘pop’ for the Stones. And “I’m Free” did come out as an album by UK R&B singer Chris Farlowe in 1966 – produced by Jagger and Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham – though it made a first appearance on the Stones’ late-1965 album Out of Our Heads (slightly later in the USA, on December’s Children).

But this is one early Stones composition with a real R&B feel. It was a staple of many USA garage bands and Wilmer & The Dukes picked it up along the way. Their first single, “Give Me One More Chance” / “Get It” (Aphrodisiac 260)  – reviewed last week – was a regional hit and they picked “I’m Free” as the follow up, backed by an original titled “Heavy Time”.

Aphrodisiac 261 was issued in a picture sleeve which puts “I’m Free” as top side over “Heavy Time” though on the actual record “I’m Free” is labelled Side B. In any case “I’m Free” is the side that DID get radio play. But while their previous release had dented the Top 100 nationally, “I’m Free achieved only regional success. And also unlike “Give Me One More Chance” it doesn’t seem to have gotten released in any foreign countries.

It’s too bad, as it’s a fine track. I’ll bet the Stones were pleased to hear this 1969 version with the full-on Soul treatment of piano, organ and horns!

By the way – I wonder if Bruce Springsteen ever heard this record? The piano and rhythm section parts of “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” sound very similar to this.


After writing last week’s article I did some checking. I was pretty sure I’d done a write-up on Wilmer in the past (I was SURE I’d covered “Give Me One More Chance”) but apparently I was wrong. They’re an important local band and need to be properly covered, so expect that within the next few weeks.

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