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Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Howlin' Wolf - Off The Record

Side 1:
01. Shake For Me
02. The Red Rooster
03. You'll Be Mine
04. Who's Been Talkin'
05. Wang-Dang-Doodle
06. Little Baby

Side 2:
01. Spoonful
02. Going Down Slow
03. Down In the Bottom
04. Back Door Man
05. Howlin' For My Baby
06. Tell Me

Download from here:

A 1986 Italian re-release of Chess LP 1469 "Howlin' Wolf" which was originally released in January 1962. See below for original front cover:

Also known as "The Rockin' Chair Album."

One of the earliest LPs I ever bought was "The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions" which came out in 1971. Or to be more accurate my mum bought it for my birthday in the original Glasgow Virgin Record Shop in Argyle Street back in the summer of 1971. She also bought me Ten Years After's "Cricklewood Green." To be completely and absolutely accurate she stood in the middle of the hippy hangout shop, purse in hand, while I wandered from record bin to record bin agonizing over which two LPs to choose. Happily my choices proved to be spot on and both LPs provided many years of listening pleasure.

Over the years I bought a few more Wolf LPs and then CDs but the LP I've posted here is a comparatively recent purchase bought second hand somewhere in Glasgow within the last few years. It's a 1980s reissue and some of these reissued Chess albums weren't always in the best sound quality as is occasionally evident on the mp3s I've ripped.

The LP is a compilation of Wolf's early 1960s singles. Recording and release details are given below.

Single releases of the tracks from "Howlin' Wolf" / "Off The Record":

Chess 1750 - Tell Me / Who's Been Talking? - February 1960

Chess 1762 - Spoonful / Howlin' For My Darling - July 1960 re-titled "Howlin' For My Baby" on LP.

Chess 1777 - Wang-Dang-Doodle / Back Door Man - January 1961

Chess 1793 - Down In The Bottom / Little Baby - June 1961

Chess 1804 - The Red Rooster / Shake For Me - October 1961

Chess 1813 - You'll Be Mine / Going Down Slow - February 1962

Recording details:

"Who's Been Talking?" and "Tell Me" -
recorded in Chicago on June 24th 1957. Personnel: Howlin' Wolf (vocal, harmonica); Adolph "Billy" Duncan (tenor sax); Hosea Lee Kennard (piano); Willie Johnson, Otis "Big Smokey"
Smothers (guitars); Alfred Elkins (bass); Earl Phillips (drums)

"Howlin' For My Darling" aka "Howlin' For My Baby" -
recorded in Chicago in July 1959. Personnel: Howlin' Wolf (vocal, harmonica); Abb Locke (tenor sax); Hosea Lee Kennard (piano); Hubert Sumlin, Abraham "Abe" Smothers (guitars); S.P. Leary (drums)

"Back Door Man," "Wang-Dang-Doodle" and "Spoonful" -
recorded in Chicago in June 1960. Personnel: Howlin' Wolf (vocal, harmonica); Otis Spann (piano); Hubert Sumlin (guitar); Willie Dixon (bass); Fred Below (drums)

"Little Baby" and "Down In The Bottom" -
recorded in Chicago in May 1961. Personnel: Howlin' Wolf (vocal, guitar); Johnny Jones (piano); Hubert Sumlin, Jimmy Rogers (guitars); Willie Dixon (bass); Sam Lay (drums)

"Shake For Me" and "The Red Rooster" -
recorded in Chicago in May 1961. Personnel: Howlin' Wolf (vocal, harmonica, guitar); Johnny Jones (piano); Hubert Sumlin, Jimmy Rogers (guitars); Willie Dixon (bass); Sam Lay (drums)

"You'll Be Mine" and "Going Down Slow" -
recorded in Chicago in December 1961. Personnel: Howlin' Wolf (vocal, guitar); Henry Gray (piano); Hubert Sumlin (guitar); Jimmy Rogers (bass guitar); Willie Dixon (bass, spoken vocal on Going Down Slow); Sam Lay (drums).

Some recommended Howlin' Wolf CDs:

Howling Wolf Sings The Blues (Ace CD CDCHM 1013) - is an extended version of the Crown LP "Sings The Blues." A collection of Modern / RPM Wolf sides recorded in Memphis and West Memphis between 1951 and 1953. The Wolf was caught up in the complicated battle between Chess and Modern / RPM both of whom released sides recorded at Sam Phillips Memphis Recording service. The booklet contains an essay by Dave Sax which explains the twists and turns in the early recording history of The Wolf.

Come Back Home (SBLUECD017) - a budget Snapper Music collection of unreleased takes recorded at Sam Phillips' Memphis Recording Service on Union Avenue between May 1951 and October 1952. Rough, raw, ragged, but right!

The Genuine Article (MCD 11073) - the starting point for any Howlin' Wolf collection. All the biggies released on Chess, ranging from 1951 sides recorded by Sam Phillips to a version of The Red Rooster from the London Howlin' Wolf sessions recorded in 1970. Excellent sound quality on 25 tracks.

His Best Vol. 2 (Chess 112 026-2) - a good companion volume to "The Genuine Article." 20 tracks from Memphis 1951 to London 1970. Not much duplication between the 2 CDs. Any disc on the Chess The Legendary Masters Series will be in exemplary sound quality.

Recommended read:

Moanin' At Midnight: The Life and Times of Howlin' Wolf by James Segrest and Mark Hoffman. Pantheon Books, New York, 2004. A revised paperback edition (2005) published by Da Capo Press can be bought for a very reasonable price.

Enjoy the unique experience that is Howlin' Wolf!


Don Rocin said...

Cool first records there BW. My first was Danny and The Juniors, At The Hop! :)

I think if I was given a half dozen trips back in time to see bands live, one would have to go toward getting shredded by Howlin’ Wolf and his band (with Hubert Sumlin on guitar).

Cheers, Don

gracenotes said...

'Off The Record' isn't the title of the album, although it looks like whoever was responsible for this particular reissue thought that it was. Chess LPs in the 1960s used to put the track listing in a box on the sleeve, headed 'Off The Record', which somebody at Chess must have thought was a clever play on words. You can find it, for example, on the back of the Chuck Berry LP you posted in May, but it's on various others, too.

By the way, I remember that Virgin shop in Argyll St. In my memory it was almost underneath the railway bridge that crossed the street out of Central Station, but I might be getting mixed up. I remember buying the Charley Patton double LP on Yazoo in there, maybe early 1972. The shop was also known as a source of bootleg albums (Dylan etc) at a time when other Glasgow shops (like 23rd Precinct) wouldn't touch them.

boogiewoody said...

Cheers Gracenotes - yeah I included a scan of the cover of the original issue with its title "Howlin' Wolf" in the post. As you say the reissue company obviously thought that "Off The Record" was the correct title and even put it on the disc labels. I hadn't noticed "Off The Record" on the back of the Chuck Berry LP before - thanks for pointing it out. Must look at my other Chess reissue LPs.

That Virgin shop was in Argyle Street somewhere to the west of the Central Station bridge (the Hielanmans' Umbrella), but I can't remember if it was in the block between Hope Street and Wellington Street or the next block along between Wellington Street and York Street.

I bought a Muddy Waters bootleg in the 23rd Precinct - Vintage Muddy Waters. Still got it! Just along from that shop was another record hangout - Hades.

Ah memories ...