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"Spoonful"
Single by Howlin' Wolf
B-side "Howlin' for My Darling"
Released 1960
Format 7" 45rpm
Recorded Chess Studios, Chicago
June 1960
Genre Blues
Length 2:45
Label Chess (Cat No. 1762)
Writer(s) Willie Dixon
Producer Phil & Leonard Chess, Willie Dixon
Howlin' Wolf singles chronology
"I've Been Abused"/ "Mr. Airplane Man"
(1959)
"Spoonful"
(1960)
"Wang Dang Doodle"/ "Back Door Man"
(1960)

"Spoonful" is a blues standard written by Willie Dixon and first recorded in 1960 by Howlin' Wolf.[1] It is loosely based on "A Spoonful Blues", a song recorded in 1929 by Charley Patton (Paramount 12869).[2] "Spoonful" has a one-chord, modal blues structure found in other songs Dixon wrote for Wolf, such as "Wang Dang Doodle" and "Back Door Man" as well as in Wolf's own "Smokestack Lightning". The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame listed it as one of the "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll".[3] "Spoonful" is also ranked #219 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[4]

Backing Howlin' Wolf (vocals) are: longtime accompanist Hubert Sumlin (guitar); relative newcomer Freddie Robinson (second guitar); and Chess recording veterans Otis Spann (piano), Fred Below (drums), and Dixon (double-bass). It has been suggested that Freddie King contributed the second guitar on "Spoonful", but both Sumlin and Robinson insist it was Robinson.[5] In 1962, the song was included on Wolf's second album for Chess titled Howlin' Wolf (Chess LP-1469). As with his first album released in 1958, the second album was a collection of various singles spanning his career up to that point (because of the album cover design, it is frequently referred to as the "Rocking Chair album").

In 1968, Wolf reluctantly re-recorded "Spoonful", along with several of his blues classics in Marshall Chess' attempt at updating Wolf's sound for the burgeoning rock market. Unlike his 1971 The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions (Chess LP-60008) where he was backed by several rock stars, including Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, et al., here he was backed by relatively unknown studio session players. The resulting album, The Howlin' Wolf Album (Cadet Concept LPS-319), with its "comically bombastic" arrangements and instrumentation, was a musical and commercial failure.[6] Wolf offered his assessment in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine "Man ... that stuff's dogshit".[6]

"Spoonful"
Live version by Cream

from the album Wheels of Fire

Released July-August 1968
Recorded Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco
March 10, 1968 1st show
Genre Blues-rock, acid rock
Length 16:48
Label Polydor (Cat. No. 583 031/2) (UK)
Atco (Cat. No. SD-2-700) (US)
Writer Willie Dixon
Producer Felix Pappalardi
Wheels of Fire track listing
"Crossroads"
(10)
"Spoonful"
(11)
"Traintime"
(12)

Contents

Cream versions

The British blues-rock band Cream recorded "Spoonful" for their 1966 UK debut album, Fresh Cream (Reaction 591 001). For the American release of Fresh Cream (Atco SD 33-206), "I Feel Free" was substituted for "Spoonful". The song was released in the U.S. later in 1967 as a two-sided single (Atco 45-6522) but edited as Part 1 fades out as the instrumental break starts and Part 2 begins just before the third verse. Cream frequently played it in concert and the song evolved beyond the blues-rock form of the 1966 recording into a vehicle for extended improvised soloing influenced by the sixties San Francisco music scene. One such rendition, recorded at a Winterland concert and included on their 1968 album Wheels of Fire, clocks in at nearly seventeen minutes.

Other versions

"Spoonful" has also been recorded by artists such as The Blues Project (on their album Live at The Cafe Au Go Go), Etta James (on her 1961 album At Last!), the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Canned Heat, Dion DiMucci, the Allman Joys, Shadows of Knight, Ten Years After, The Grateful Dead, Gov't Mule, The Who, Johnny Diesel (Short Cool Ones), Chris Whitley (Perfect Day), My Midnight Creeps, Blues Creation and songwriter Willie Dixon. The Charley Patton antecedent can be heard on the compilation album The Music Never Stopped: Roots of the Grateful Dead.

Notes

  1. ^ Herzhaft 1992, p. 471.
  2. ^ Segrest 2004, p. 173.
  3. ^ "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 1995. http://www.rockhall.com/exhibithighlights/500-songs/. Retrieved 2009-10-15.  
  4. ^ "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2004. http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/6596064/spoonful. Retrieved 2009-10-15.  
  5. ^ Segrest 2004, p. 369.
  6. ^ a b Segrest 2004, pp. 249-250.

References

  • Herzhaft, Gerard (1992). Encyclopedia of the Blues. University of Arkansas Press. pp. 513. ISBN 1557282528.  
  • Segrest, James; Hoffman, Mark (2004). Moanin' at Midnight: The Life and Times of Howlin' Wolf. Pantheon Books. pp. 397. ISBN 0375422463.  
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