R&B Classic “Hold On, I’m Comin’” Had a Surprisingly Potty-Mouthed Origin Story

Sam & Dave’s 1966 single “Hold On, I’m Comin’” is as iconic of a soul track as they come, cementing itself into the midcentury musical canon with its distinctive horn intro and catchy hooks that skyrocketed the track to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot R&B chart. However, its origin story is far less glamorous.

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When Stax Records first sent out the single to radio stations, some listeners took offense to the possible sexual innuendo of the song’s title. Some stations refused to play the song altogether. To work around this, Stax released subsequent copies of the song under the title “Hold On! I’m A Comin.’”

But in reality, the title wasn’t an innuendo, it was a way of saying “occupato.”

The Songwriters Behind The R&B Hit

Sam & Dave might’ve been the faces and voices associated with “Hold On, I’m Comin,’” but songwriters Isaac Hayes and David Porter were the real brains behind the R&B classic. Hayes and Porter were an integral part of the Stax team, collaborating on hits like “B-A-B-Y” and “Soul Man” (yes, the one that John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd performed clad in fedoras and sunglasses).

The songwriting duo was largely responsible for the distinctive sound of Stax and, in a more general sense, Memphis itself. Hayes and Porter began working with musical duo Sam & Dave in the mid-1960s, writing the act’s first singles like “I Take What I Want” and “You Don’t Know Like I Know.” Indeed, both pairings harnessed a musical alchemy that was virtually unmatched at the time. Sam & Dave became the most consistently successful R&B act out of Stax beside Aretha Franklin, garnering 10 top-20 singles and three top-10 LPs in a row.

“Hold On, I’m Comin’” would be Sam & Dave’s first breakout onto the Top 40 charts. The track quickly became a fan favorite, and in 1988, it earned a spot on Rolling Stone’s list of the Best 100 Songs of The Last 25 Years. Amazingly, this cultural behemoth was born in the bathroom.

How The Title For “Hold On, I’m Comin’” Came To Be

Despite what the pearl clutchers might have thought in the mid-1960s, “Hold On, I’m Comin’” wasn’t a sly sexual reference—although it was a little potty-mouthed. Co-owner of Stax Records, Al Bell, revealed the true story behind the song’s tongue-in-cheek title in an episode of Rock and Roll

He explained that one-half of the famous songwriting duo David Porter was known for his frequent comings and goings. Bell said the writer “would come into the studio and work a bit, would run out to the golf course, or have someplace to go, would be very busy in and out of the studio.”

One day, Porter and Hayes were planning on leaving the studio together. “As you come out of Studio A, going out the front of the theater to the right, there was a bathroom. And Isaac had come out and was in the bathroom there taking care of some private matters, and David was in a hurry to get out of the building. He kept hollering to Isaac, ‘Come on, come on, let’s go, man, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.’ Isaac said, ‘Hold on, I’m coming.’ And from that grew the song.” 

We suppose it goes to show that when inspiration—or nature—calls, you’d be wise to answer.

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