Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Howlin’ Wolf

Spoonful

First recorded by Howlin’ Wolf (1960).
Based on “Spoonful Blues” by Charley Patton (1929).
Hit versions by Etta & Harvey (US #78/R&B #12 1961), Cream (1966).
Also recorded by The Blues Project (1966), Koko Taylor (1978).

From the wiki: “The blues song ‘Spoonful’ was written by Willie Dixon, and loosely based on ‘Spoonful Blues’, recorded in 1929 by Charley Patton. ‘Spoonful’ was first recorded in 1960 by Howlin’ Wolf. Backing Wolf on vocals are longtime accompanist Hubert Sumlin on guitar, relative newcomer Freddie Robinson on second guitar, and Chess recording veterans Otis Spann on piano, Fred Below on drums, and Dixon on double-bass. ‘Spoonful’ would go on to become one of Dixon’s best-known and most-interpreted songs.

“Etta James had a Pop and R&B record chart hit with ‘Spoonful’ in 1961, in duet with Harvey Farqua (who would go on to become head of A&R at Motown Records). ‘Spoonful’ would become more popularized in the late 1960s when recorded by the British rock group Cream who produced a cover of ‘Spoonful’ for their 1966 UK debut album, Fresh Cream.

Wang Dang Doodle

First recorded by Howlin’ Wolf (1960).
Hit versions by Koko Taylor (US #58/R&B #13 1966), The Pointer Sisters (US #61/R&B #24 1973).
Also recorded by Savoy Brown (1971), Willie Dixon (1973).

From the wiki: “‘Wang Dang Doodle’ is a Blues song written by Willie Dixon and first recorded in 1960 by Howlin’ Wolf. In 1965, Dixon and Leonard Chess persuaded Koko Taylor to record it for Checker Records. Her recording charted both R&B and Pop, and ‘Wang Dang Doodle’ has since gone on to become a Blues standard. In his autobiography, Dixon explained that the phrase ‘wang dang doodle’ ‘meant a good time, especially if the guy came in from the South. A ‘wang dang’ meant having a ball and a lot of dancing, they called it a rocking style so that’s what it meant to ‘wang dang doodle’.’ Dixon claimed that he wrote ‘Wang Dang Doodle’ when he first heard Howlin’ Wolf in 1951 or 1952, but that it was ‘too far in advance’ for him and he saved it for later. Wolf supposedly hated the song at first and commented, ‘Man, that’s too old-timey, sound[s] like some old levee camp number.’

Little Red Rooster

First recorded (as “The Red Rooster”) by Howlin’ Wolf (1961).
Hit version by Sam Cooke (US #11/R&B #7 1963), The Rolling Stones (UK #1 1964).
Also recorded by Willie Dixon (1970).

From the wiki: “‘Little Red Rooster’ (also ‘The Red Rooster’) is credited to arranger and songwriter Willie Dixon. It was first recorded in 1961 by Blues musician Howlin’ Wolf in the Chicago Blues style. Sam Cooke adapted the song, sweetened it with additional instrumentation, and it saw chart success in 1963 as a Top 40 and R&B hit. The Rolling Stones recorded ‘Little Red Rooster’ in 1964 with original member Brian Jones, a key player in the recording. Their rendition, which remains closer to the original arrangement than Cooke’s, became a #1 record in the UK and is still the only Blues song to reach the top of the British chart.”

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