Monday, January 19, 2009

Hound Dog Taylor

Hound Dog Taylor's left hand, count the number of fingers.

 Live with Little Walter on harmonica. 

Hound Dog Taylor with the House Rockers.
 Here's some nice footage of Hound Dog Taylor, and that's Little Walter, near the end of his life (he was only thirty two when he died) on harp. The second clip I just added thanks to who ever left the comment. The photo is H.D.'s six fingered left paw, no he didn't use the extra pinkie to play slide, it was just there because God thought it looked cool. Although he died back in '75, Hound Dog Taylor & his House Rockers were probably the last really great blues band. Blues has become one of the most offensive marketing tools in history and by this point just the word gives me a headache, it brings to mind bands like best exemplified by Blue Hammer, the jock blues band in Terry Zwigoff's film (taken from Dan Clowes' comic book) Ghost World (2001), white guys in thrift store suits and silly hats, and idiot guitar solo worship. Or as my old pal Ike Turner said--"Who want to hear white guys imitating what the blues used to be"? But Hound Dog Taylor & his House Rockers were kinda like the punk rock of the blues, primitive, noisy and proudly showing off the chops they didn't have. They're a good place to plant the tombstone for blues, and a great band whose music hasn't dated at all-- sloppy, drunk and derivative (those are compliments), their sound makes me miss drinking. Theodore Roosevelt Taylor, born in either 1915 or 1917 in Natchez, Mississippi had been kicking around for years, cutting the odd 45 for Chess, Bea & Baby, Alley and other small labels before Bruce Iglauer started Alligator Records in Chicago to record him and his House Rockers (Brewer Phillips- guitar and Ted Harvey- drums), releasing three albums: Hound Dog Taylor & his House Rockers (which can be found here) Natural Boogie, Beware Of Dog (here), and later two more LP's of outtakes and live recordings-Genuine House Rockin' Music (here) and Release The Hound (look here, downloaders), all great, all sounding pretty much the same. They would be the only good records Alligator ever released as Alligator soon pioneered the beer commercial sound that we think of today as blues. Death to digital reverb. As Hound Dog said of himself, "When I die they're gonna say--he couldn't play shit, but it sure sounded good". Calling him derivative is besides the point, all blues (in fact all pop music) is derivative. Hound Dog Taylor based his sound on Elmore James' "Dust My Broom" riff, of course Elmore James got it from Robert Johnson, who got it from Kokomo Arnold, who got it from somebody else, it hardly matters who. On his earlier sides he comes off as just another enjoyable but fairly generic Elmore imitator (c.f. his version of Watch Out with Big Walter Horton on harp, issued by Chess in '67), but with the House Rockers' rhythm section he found a way to put his own personal stamp on the old riff, which is really what it's all about. Here's some highlights: Kitchen Sink Boogie, My Baby's Comin' Home, Roll Your Moneymaker, The Sun Is Shining, Dust My Broom and Brewer Phillips', who played the bass parts and lead guitar simultaneously, is showcased on this whacked out version of What'd I Say. They could even take a goofy tune like "She'll Be Comin' Around The Mountain" and make it rock and roll (I'd like to have heard 'em tackle "The Ink Dinky Spider"). It's obvious from these recordings that these guys were pretty drunk for most of their sessions and gigs. Now let's face it music was better when it worked on the alcohol standard (i.e., musicians were paid in booze and just enough money to buy a new set of strings). Perhaps a return to such practices would improve the dire state of modern music, if not the lifestyles of the rich and useless. I don't know if any amount of booze could help Coldplay but they sure couldn't get any worse. And I doubt if Hound Dog Taylor & his House Rockers would have sounded any better sober. The richer the artist the worse the music. Something to think about....


Anonymous said...

"...white guys in thrift store suits and silly hats, and idiot guitar solo worship."

And the all-important two-tone shoes.

In my previous Upstate neighborhood, there was a "blues" band of middle-age white guys playing totally lame "blues," very much like that band in "Ghost World." I saw them at an Albany (a.k.a. Smallbany) "blues" fest that was mainly middle-age white guys playin' de "blues." The headliner was some Stevie Ray clone. Pathetic. There was some dude who was a CPA by day, "bluesman" on weekends, who began every song with lead guitar work that started at 110 MPH and just kept going at 110 MPH with no let up. He was VERY impressed with himself. And he wore... two-tone shoes.

On the other hand, Hound Dog (and JB Hutto) are my idols and my ideals.

PS: Nothing against middle-age white guys. I happen to be one.

Anonymous said...

Here is another great hound dog taylor performance from youtube.

ib said...

"Blues has become one of the most offensive marketing tools in history..."

Or as an acquaintance once referred to it: "all that dead on a stick, shit."

I've only recently come face to face with Hound Dog Taylor after a visitor to my own site tipped me the wink. Clearly, I must have slept through it before. Oh, and that same person alerted me to the fact you had posted on him too; which was cool since I haven't visited here previously. Two birds with one stone, as they say.

Thanks for fleshing out the detail, Hound. I am not a blues aficionado, but I like this shit. And nice to see that footage of the Groovies from your previous post.

Bob Pomeroy said...

What about "Let's Get Funky"? One of my favorite Hounddoggers.

I dunno, youse are pretty hard on the poor old blues here. Seems not that long ago you could make the trip to hear Jr. Kimbrough & RL Burnside transcend all that Blues Hammer crap. And T-Model Ford will STILL put his foot in yr ass.

The Hound said...

He's about the last one. It took years for RL Burnside and Jr. Kimbrough to get any notice at all, and of course soon as it came they croaked. T-Model's pretty funny, he threatened to rape Hasil Adkins on the Fat Possum package tour. If he's not the last drop out of that spigot he's pretty close to it.

Anonymous said...

One of my fave song titles and a great rocking tune: "Give Me Back My Wig" and also his guitar! It's some cheapo Japanese thing who knows what brand.

The best use I had for George Thoroughgood was when in HS I read on the back of one his records the description of him going crazy "like Hound Dog Taylor" that led me to check out Hound Dog Taylor.

The Hound said...

"also his guitar! It's some cheapo Japanese thing who knows what brand".

Hound Dog always played Kent guitars, cheapo Japanese made models rougly modeled on the Stratocaster. Lots of nobs and buttons. They also had Silvertone piggy back amps when I saw 'em in '74.

Anonymous said...

everything you say about "modern" blues is true!

everything you say about Alligator Records is true.

I saw Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers when they toured Melbourne in 1974, and even though it was at a football ground,and the Dog was a long way away ,every other "blues" band I've ever seen can never match up to that experience,!

And those first two albums are beyond compare!I think they are the noisest records I'll ever hear!

Thanks for articulating what i've always thought about the total bs that goes with modern "blues' music...

And thanks for the lovely tribute to Hound Dog Taylor and his band!

Big Ern xxx

Melbourne Australia

XaurreauX said...

I seem to remember a quote from Hound Dog Taylor that was something like this: "Cain't no Negro sing no love song; cain't no white man sing the blues." Is this correct?

Mens Suits said...

Thanks dude,I really appreciate your post,In fact I enjoy reading it.Keep it up

Let's Hear It For The Orchestra

Let's Hear It For The Orchestra
copyright Hound Archive