Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Spectacular Singles: Little Red Rooster

"Little Red Rooster," (or "The Red Rooster") was written by Willie Dixon (1915 - 1992) and first recorded by Howlin' Wolf in 1961.

The song is a slow blues which features distinctive slide guitar accompaniment. In the Howlin' Wolf recording Wolf took lead vocal and played guitar accompanied by Hubert Sumlin (guitar), Johnny Jones (piano), Willie Dixon (bass), and Sam Lay (drums). "The Red Rooster" was one in a string of Willie Dixon-penned songs which were covered by many other artists. Sam Cooke recorded a version in 1963 and re-titled it Little Red Rooster. The song was a top ten hit on the Billboard R&B charts and became a top twenty hit on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart.

Sam Cooke’s version has the backing arrangement changed to suit his soul style but the original Dixon's lyrics were retained. Ray Charles played piano and Billy Preston played organ. A year later the Rolling Stones recorded their version at Chess Studios, Chicago. The song was produced by the group's manager Adrew Loog Oldham.

The Stones version follows the original with Brian Jones contributing the distinctive slide guitar part and Mick Jagger adding an effective harmonica part on the outro. The song reached number one in the UK singles chart and remains the only time a blues song has ever topped the British pop charts. In the US, radio stations banned the single for sexual content. This gave the UK group the ideal effect Andrew Loog Oldham wanted and further established them as the naughty quintet and complete antithesis of the Fab Four.

"Little Red Rooster" was covered by many other artists including; Big Mama Thornton, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Luther Allison, James Blood Ulmer, The Persuasions, Junior Wells, The Grateful Dead, The Doors, The Roosters, Otis Rush, The Jesus And Mary Chain, ZZ Tops and Arno Hintjens to name but a few .

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