This classic song is written by Chip Taylor (aka James Wesley Voight) and there are several very good recordings. The version above is from Chip Taylor’s fantastic album, Hit Man released in 1996. An album were Taylor revisits many of his best songs. When you have written as many great songs as Taylor has, there are bound to be oversights and omissions, but you owe it to yourself to seek out this great record. Hit Man indeed!
“Son Of A Rotten Gambler” was written for his son, Kristian and it went to the top of the country charts. The song is particularly poignant as it speaks of his other great talent, gambling, that he was doing professionally during a break from his recording career in the early 80′s.
As a gambler, he was one of the foremost thoroughbred horse race handicappers on the East Coast. When Chip Taylor turned his sights on the gaming tables, he quickly gained notoriety with his black jack prowess; finishing third in the World Black Jack Championship in Las Vegas. He became one of the most feared card counters in theU.S and was banned from every casino in Atlantic City. These stories are known throughout the gambling world and well documented by the I.R.S..
Anne Murray had a hit with the song in 1974, and it is probably the best known version.
Son Of A Rotten Gambler – Anne Murray:
One of my favorite recordings, “Son of a Rotten Gambler” was a huge, huge country record for Anne Murray. But it was the fifth single from her album release, and they quickly buried it because they wanted to release another album for Christmas. Even though they tried to bury it, it became a huge hit. I wrote it for my son. Emmylou Harris has recorded it as well, but Anne’s version gave me chills when I first heard it. It starts out with an organ that you hear in the distance, and it gets louder and louder and louder, and then she comes in and starts to sing. I think it’s one of the best recordings of any of my songs.
- Chip Taylor (to Engine 145)
The Hollies released their version in 1975. A nice interpretation but too much of a ”sing-a-long” anthem for my taste. I think the song loses some of its poignancy.
Son of a Rotten Gambler – The Hollies:
My favourite take of the song, together with Chip Taylors own, is by Emmylou Harris. Released in 1981 on the wonderful album, Cimarron. This was her 9th album and is often rated lower than her previous records, don’t be fooled, it is better than most country albums.
Son of a Rotten Gambler – Emmylou Harris: