“Tighten Up” was a 1968 song by Houston, Texas based R&B vocal group Archie Bell & the Drells. It reached #1 on both the Billboard R&B and pop charts in the spring of 1968. It is ranked #265 on the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” and is one of the earliest funk hits in music history.
“Tighten Up” was written by Archie Bell and Billy Buttier. It was one of the first songs that Archie Bell & the Drells recorded, in a session in 1967, along with a number of songs including “She’s My Woman”. Soon afterwards Bell was drafted into the U.S. Army and began serving in Vietnam. The song became a hit in Houston, and was picked up by Atlantic Records for distribution in April 1968. By the summer it topped both the Billboard R&B and pop charts. It also sold a million copies by May 1968, gaining an R.I.A.A. gold disc. The line in “Tighten Up”, “we dance just as good as we walk” was a little ironic, given that Bell had been shot in the leg and was consigned to a military hospital bed at the time.
The introduction features Bell introducing himself as being from Houston, Texas. According to the Billboard Book of Number One Hits by Fred Bronson, Bell heard a comment after the Kennedy assassination in Dallas, that “nothing good ever came out of Texas.” Bell wanted his listeners to know “we were from Texas and we were good.”