Lost Classics! “The Back Door Wolf”
Blues great Howlin’ Wolf revealed himself to be a somewhat bitter and angry fellow with The Back Door Wolf, released on Chess Records in 1973. The Wolf, real name Chester Burnett, was incredibly popular in the late 1950s and early 1960s – his 1962 album Howlin’ Wolf (the “rocking chair” album, because there’s a rocking chair on the cover), with classics-to-be “Wang Dang Doodle,” “Little Red Rooster” and “Spoonful,” was his biggest hit and one of the greatest albums ever made.
But by the late 1960s-early 1970s Howlin’ Wolf wasn’t as popular and the big shots at Chess kept trying to find ways to keep their artists current (and selling records). The Back Door Wolf as a result features some “topical” songs of the day written by the Wolf his own bad self. “Coon On The Moon” speaks to the prejudice still evident in the time and with the lyrics “You gonna wake up one morning/And a coon is gonna be President” he sarcastically predicted the election of the nation’s first black President 35 years later.
Later in “The Watergate Blues,” Wolf celebrates the black security guard who found a little piece of tape on a door and started into motion a series of events that brought down that era’s president. The lyrics of these topical songs are rooted in a particular time but they’re still listenable today for their passion and fury.
Wolf is supported by the great Hubert Sumlin on guitar, but Detroit Junior’s use of the harpsichord on some of the songs is a little odd. And Wolf himself plays a mean harmonica. The Back Door Wolf turned out to be Howlin’ Wolf’s final studio album; he died in 1976.