Archive for Howlin’ Wolf

Rockin’ Blues Sunday (and Monday)

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , , , on March 3, 2013 by 30daysout

Hendrix playing Elmore James

It’s been a while since we wailed the blues on a Monday. So let’s do it on a Sunday – with a dozen guitar rockin’ blues.

MP3: “Buried Alive In The Blues” by Nick Gravenites

MP3: “Blues Before Sunrise” by Elmore James & the Broom Dusters

MP3: “Little Red Rooster” by Sugar Blue

MP3: “Good Rockin’ Tonight” by Wynonie Harris

MP3: “All Your Love” by John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (w/Eric Clapton)

MP3: “Rockin’ Daddy” by Howlin’ Wolf (w/Eric Clapton)

MP3: “What’d I Say” by Steve Cropper, Pops Staples & Albert King

MP3: “Sweet Little Angel” by B.B. King

MP3: “The Blues Had A Baby (And They Called It Rock and Roll)” by Muddy Waters (w/Johnny Winter)

MP3: “Bound For Glory” by the Tedeschi Trucks Band

MP3: “Dirty Pool” by Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble

MP3: “Hear My Train A’ Comin'” by Jimi Hendrix

Mess O’ Monday Blues

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , on April 9, 2012 by 30daysout

John Lee Hooker

Don’t know about you, but my eyes are still sorta glazed over from the long weekend. No better time to blow some blues for Monday.

MP3: “Howling For My Darling (or Baby)” by Howlin’ Wolf

MP3: “I’m Shakin’ ” by Little Willie John

MP3: “Automobile” by Lightnin’ Hopkins

MP3: “Delia” by Blind Willie McTell

MP3: “Boogie Chillun” by John Lee Hooker

MP3: “Three O’ Clock In The Morning” by B. B. King

MP3: “I’d Rather Go Blind” by Etta James

MP3: “Last Night” by Little Walter

MP3: “It’s A Shame, Shame, Shame” by Juke Boy Bonner

MP3: “Take Out Some Insurance” by Jimmy Reed

More Monday Blues

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , , , on July 25, 2011 by 30daysout

Sonny Boy Williamson II

In most places it is still probably way too hot to feel good about gettin’ up and goin’ to work on a Monday. So let’s blow some blues today.

MP3: “Fattening Frogs For Snakes” by Sonny Boy Williamson

MP3: “Tell Me Mama” by Little Walter

MP3: “Boom Boom” by John Lee Hooker

MP3: “Midnight Special” by Odetta

MP3: “Who Do You Love” by Bo Diddley

MP3: “Evil (Is Going On)” by Howlin’ Wolf

MP3: “Trust In Me” by Etta James

MP3: “I Ain’t Gonna Do It No More” by Jimmie Vaughan

MP3: “Floating Bridge” by Gregg Allman

MP3: “Whipping Boy Blues” (Swamp mix) by Whitesnake

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Willie Dixon

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , on August 5, 2010 by 30daysout

My sister’s been sleeping in these days – she didn’t get a job this summer and she’s been hanging around the house all day.  So I haven’t been able to sneak in and see what she has in her record collection.  So today I have a dusty, forgotten album from my own closet, one that I had to reach way in the back to locate.

It’s Peace? by Chicago bluesman Willie Dixon, and it came out in 1971.  Now Dixon is one of the all-time great American songwriters – he penned such blues classics as “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “Evil,” “Spoonful,” “Back Door Man,” “Little Red Rooster,” “My Babe,” “Wang Dang Doodle” and many more.  As performed by Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson, these songs put Chicago and Chess Records on the map in the 1950s and influenced thousands of young rockers in the 1960s.

Willie Dixon’s fingerprint on rock and roll is indisputable.  Not only did he work with seminal rockers like Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, but songs by Dixon were covered by bands like the Rolling Stones, the Doors and Jimi Hendrix (and stolen by Led Zeppelin).   But while he is considered one of the all-time great songwriters, as a performer he’s not that great.  He can carry a tune and he has a passable sing-shout style appropriate for blues, but when guys like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf are in the same room a singer like Dixon doesn’t have a chance.

So we get to Peace? which was recorded by Dixon for his own label, Yambo, in the early 1970s.  By this time Chess had gone into decline as a label and in fact it was sold in 1969 to General Recorded Tape (GRT).  The classic blues artists were having a hell of a time getting attention with their albums but people like Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry were doing OK on the revival tour circuit.  Dixon thought it would be cool to get all timely and write songs that had some social significance for the time.

Good idea, but that means the music would have a relatively short shelf life.  “Peace” is an agreeable shuffle and it’s still fairly listenable today because its lyrics are broadly written:  “Peace is what I’m tryin’ to get/Peace I haven’t found it yet/Peace all the world needs/A peace for you, a peace for me.”  And with its sweet female chorus and fat horn section, this is a long way from the Wolf’s electric Chicago blues.

“It’s In The News” gets more topical, name-dropping Richard Nixon and Chiang Kai-shek to tell the story of Nixon’s reaching out to China with his so-called “ping pong diplomacy.”  The song is a mess; Dixon attempts to interpret world events in a down-home language, punctuating his verses with the chorus “It’s in the news/Everybody in the world got some kinda blues.”   And that’s the song message – it comes off about as profound and deep as the local loudmouth down at the corner bar.

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Happy Birthday, Howlin’ Wolf!

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , on June 9, 2010 by 30daysout

Today (June 10) is the birthday of Chester Arthur Burnett, best known as the Chicago blues singer Howlin’ Wolf.  He was born in 1910, and this would be his 100th birthday.  Howlin’ Wolf is one of the greatest artists of American music, and certainly one of the two absolute giants of blues.  (The other would be, of course, Muddy Waters.)

Wolf kept one foot (size 16 extra wide) in Chicago blues and another in the fertile South.  He got his start recording at Sun studios for the legendary Sam Phillips, and after he migrated north to Chicago in the early 1950s Wolf did his howling under the Chess Records imprint.

Howlin’ Wolf’s influence on rock and roll is profound – his 1962 album Howlin’ Wolf (the “rocking chair” album, because there’s a rocking chair on the cover), with classics “Wang Dang Doodle,” “Little Red Rooster” and “Spoonful,”covered by literally hundreds of rockers, is one of the greatest albums ever made.

When Chess set up a 1971 session in London, the Wolf attracted as sidemen no less than Eric Clapton, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, Steve Winwood, Klaus Voormann and Ringo Starr.  The version of “Wang Dang Doodle” included here is from those London sessions.

There are so many songs we could choose, hope these will help you blow out 100 candles.  Howl on, Wolf!

MP3: “I’m The Wolf”

MP3: “Moving”

MP3: “Built For Comfort”

MP3: “Coon On The Moon”

MP3: “Hidden Charms”

MP3: “Tail Dragger” (1968)

MP3: “Highway 49”

MP3: “Howlin’ For My Darling”

MP3: “The Back Door Wolf”

MP3: “Evil” (1968)

MP3: “Baby Ride With Me Tonight (Ridin’ In The Moonlight)”

MP3: “Wang Dang Doodle” (London sessions)

MP3: “Back Door Man” (1961)

MP3: “The Watergate Blues”

MP3: “Three Hundred Pounds Of Joy”

MP3: “Spoonful”

MP3: “Smokestack Lightnin'” (1956)

MP3: “Back Door Man” (1968)

Howlin’ Wolf Home Page

Lost Classics! Chuck Berry

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , on November 28, 2009 by 30daysout

We all know Chuck Berry as that duck-walking, guitar-slinging rocker from the late 1950s-early 1960s, the guy who wrote and recorded classics like “Maybelline,” “Johnny B. Goode,” “Roll Over Beethoven” and many, many more.  Berry did all of these for Chess Records, the seminal Chicago blues and rock label that was also home to Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf.

But many people know little about Berry’s excursion away from Chess in the late 1960s: by 1966 Chuck wasn’t cranking out top-selling records any more.  Berry thought if he left the small Chess label and signed with a bigger label, more money would be spent on getting his records onto the radio and back atop the charts.  So in ’66 he signed with Mercury Records, much to Berry’s disappointment.

The more corporate label had ideas about making Chuck Berry more “relevant” to audiences starting to dig the crazy sounds coming out of San Francisco.  Berry, on the other hand, wanted to make records like he did in the early 1960s.  So it was a constant battle for Chuck Berry – with producers, with label bigwigs – and the four years he spent at Mercury were mostly aimless.

In 1967, Berry released a couple of live albums for Mercury, the second of which was Live at the Fillmore Auditorium.  He was backed by the Steve Miller Blues Band, which would later become the Steve Miller Band and earn a number of its own hits in the 1970s.  Looking back, this album isn’t bad – it focuses on the slow blues that was popular at the time and which Chuck Berry played in the first place.

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Lost Classics! The Greatest Blues Album in the World

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2009 by 30daysout

Martin Scorsese Presents The BluesGodfathers and Sons

In 2003, acclaimed movie director Martin Scorcese produced a series of seven films, each created by another acclaimed director, and they called the whole thing “Martin Scorcese Presents The Blues.”  The series aired on PBS and my favorite episode was “Godfathers and Sons,” directed by Marc Levin (not the idiot right-wing talk radio guy).

Levin paired Public Enemy rapper Chuck D with Marshall Chess, son of Leonard Chess and heir to the Chess Records legacy, in Chicago and the film followed them as they produced an album combining contemporary hip-hop musicians with veteran blues and jazz players.  But along the way the film explored the rich history of Chicago blues as recorded by Chess Records, and there was great footage of Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, Bo Diddley and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, along with original performances by Koko Taylor, Otis Rush, Magic Slim, Ike Turner and Sam Lay.

As good as the film was, the soundtrack CD is even better: it could be the greatest blues album ever released.  Among the 22 tracks are a couple of hip-hoppers and white boys, but when I’m playing the blues I always seem to gravitate back to this album.  There’s a couple of genuflections each to the two gods of Chicago blues – Muddy Waters is represented by “Mannish Boy” and “(I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man,” while Howlin’ Wolf checks in with “Spoonful” and “Little Red Rooster,” classics all.  And the killer lineup includes Koko Taylor with “Wang Dang Doodle,” Jimmy Rogers, Buddy Guy, Magic Slim, Little Walter and Jimmy Reed performing their best-known songs.   And what would a Chess anthology be without the late, great Bo Diddley – he could fill an album all by himself but here he’s represented by “Diddley Daddy.”

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Lost Classics! “The Back Door Wolf”

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , on June 8, 2009 by 30daysout

Howlin' Wolf - Front

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. 

MP3: “Coon On The Moon”

MP3: “The Back Door Wolf”

MP3: “Moving”

MP3: “The Watergate Blues”

Howlin’ Wolf Home Page

Cool Covers

Posted in Cool Covers with tags , , , on September 7, 2008 by 30daysout

B.B. King’s One Kind Favor is one of the better albums of the year, and probably the best of King’s long career.  The album’s dozen songs were all popular blues tunes when King’s career was taking off in the 1940s and 1950s, and they were all great influences – hence the album’s title. 

Howlin' Wolf

As we said in our review of the album, it’s tough to pick out highlights on an album this strong.  But one song that jumped out at me was “How Many More Years,” originally by blues legend Howlin’ Wolf.  Although the song is a staple of compilations put out on Chicago-based Chess Records, “How Many More Years” was actually recorded in 1951 in Memphis.  The Wolf was working on Sun Records, and the song was produced by the legendary Sam Phillips.  That’s Ike Turner on piano!  The song was released as a single; it went to No. 4 on the R&B charts, and was instrumental in getting Howlin’ Wolf signed to Chess a few years later.

Howlin’ Wolf, whose real name was Chester Burnett, worked with the great songwriter Willie Dixon and produced a number of blues classics including “Smokestack Lightning,” “The Red Rooster” and “Spoonful,” covered by everyone from Cream to the Rolling Stones.  Howlin’ Wolf died in 1976, and Eric Clapton purchased a stone for his grave.

MP3: “How Many More Years” by Howlin’ Wolf

MP3: “How Many More Years” by B.B. King

YouTube: Howlin’ Wolf in 1966

Rock Moment: Psychedelic Blues, 1968

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , on August 14, 2008 by 30daysout

Forty years ago, Elvis Presley staged a dramatic comeback with a TV special and new recordings that attracted new fans and excited old fans who were alienated by nine years of awful movies.   This set the template for important artists who wanted to rekindle their careers and music.

One person watching Elvis’ comeback was Marshall Chess, son of the president of the Chicago-based record label Chess.  His biggest blues artist, Muddy Waters, needed a shot in the arm so Chess had the idea to recast some of Muddy’s greatest songs and a few new originals in a psychedelic haze.  After all, some of the greatest bands of the era – the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, the Animals, Jimi Hendrix Experience and many others – were heavily influenced by the music of Muddy Waters and other Chess artists.

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