An absolutely beastly rendition of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Spoonful” by… Howlin’ Wolf. I feel like playing this cut tomorrow night.‘
Part of a push at Chess Records in the late 1960s (spearheaded by Gene Barge and Marshall Chess) to rerecord both Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters in the then contemporary Psychedelic Blues style featuring awe-inspiring session work by Morris Jennings, Phil Upchurch, and more. Read more about this groovy situation here.
Minnie Ripertonwas, of course, so much more than her 1976 smash “Loving You”. I won’t even attempt to jam her legacy into a blog post. She was a mother (to SNL alum Maya Rudolph), a lover, (to Dick Rudolph) and a righteous songbird. Riperton (pictured above, 1968 [photo courtesy jeff lockard]) and her soaring soprano were featured in the Rock-Soul outfit Rotary Connection. Rotary Connection was the jazzy soulful dirty hippie baby of genius producer Charles Stepney and Marshall Chess (son of Chess Records founder Leonard Chess, and a visionary in his own right).
Certainly their most anthologized track is “I am the Black Gold of the Sun” (above), but each of their albums produced its crop of nuggets (my favorites are “Songs”, “Hey Love”, and “Aladdin”). The sound was a cross-section of Rock, Gospel, Soul, and Jazz nearly as big as the City of Big Shoulders that spawned it. Featuring Minnie Riperton on lead vocals for a number of their cuts, her other-worldly wails are the sound that almost never was.
Below, my short audio interview with Sidney Barnes of Rotary Connection (pictured far right), on how Minnie Riperton got the strength to embrace her own voice in the days when sopranos weren’t considered soulful.
“Evil”. A fundamental Howlin Wolf record, created here in Chicago, back in the 1950s. A platter of standard electrified Delta Blues. Now, add Marshall Chess (son of Chess Records’ Leonard Chess), the turbulent and psychedelic 1960s, and some of the best jazz, funk, and soul studio players in the city. Remake and enjoy.
Well that’s not exactly true. Howlin Wolf (above) didn’t like the remake. Actually, the first album of such remakes, released on Chess Records’ Cadet Concept label was called:
‘This is Howlin’ Wolf’s
He doesn’t like it.
He didn’t like his electric
guitar at first either.’
The album, the brainchild of Marshall Chess, was a product of the times. In the sixties, white rock groups from America and the UK were gangstering Chicago Blues records. They remade them nearly word for word and listed themselves as artists, thus robbing originators like Howlin Wolf and Muddy Waters out of royalties. Chess decided to re-record the artists performing their own compositions in a then-contemporary psychedelic blues style. The albums were panned by purist critics, the same critics that called white psychedelic blues artists like Cream “visionary”.
But, I like it. And I hope you do, too. For info on Muddy Waters’ psychedelic blues remakes, click here.
The year is 1969 on the South Side of Chicago (21st & Michigan). Marshall Chess (son of Leonard Chess), has taken the helm at Chess Records (the Seminal Chicago Blues/Jazz/Gospel label). A fairly hip young cat, Marshall realizes that the hottest acts in popular music at the time borrowed (or gangstered) heavily from the roster at Chess: Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter (even Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley). His offensive move was to re-record the blues giants in a psychedelic blues style popular with groups like Cream (featuring Eric Clapton). He also recorded newer, younger, more tripped-out acts. Among them, Black Merda and Fugi (backed by Black Merda), a black rock collective from Detroit (that was still reeling from riots the year before). Above is “Revelations”, one of two records released through Chess/Cadet under the name Fugi (alternately spelled as Fuji). There will be much more on this blog about this topic; but in the mean time…Jive on.