Oh, Ye, gentle mistresses and most distinguished gentlemen, and others… The opinions and observations are solely my own views, and I take full responsibility for any errors of fact, not to mention any predictions that prove to be wildly inaccurate.

Today’s Listening Pleasure: HOWLIN WOLF-“Howlin’ Wolf”  

   Playing stick ball in the street with the fellows, we usually had a battery operated AM radio playing the Top 40 tunes of the day to keep us company. One hot summer day in 1964 I heard a strange sounding song, one that starts off with a guitarist plucking each string slowly, followed by bass, drums, and an organ. Then, the voice, and oh what a voice it was…“There is a house in New Orleans”… “Who is this?, What is this?” I awaited for the DJ to announce the tune. Finally, he said, “That’s THE ANIMALS with “House Of The Rising Sun”. I knew I had to find that single on my next trip to the record store.

   Being a very young teen record collector is a difficult hobby to have. Most of my friends collected baseball cards or stamps, me I needed vinyl. Having limited resources a record had to really kick me in the balls for me to buy it. A paper route helped but not by much so at this juncture in time my items were usually limited to the occasional album but mostly singles, aka “the 45”, hopefully one with a picture sleeve. Stored alphabetically in a small compact carrying case each item was also recorded in my “journal” as to where I bought it, who I was with when I bought it and mostly, why or how I became aware of the recording. Years later this journal would be a blast to read and laugh at. But I digress…

   I finally found “House of The Rising Sun” b/w “Talkin’‘Bout You” as it shimmed up the chart  becoming a #1 hit. A few months later The ANIMALS were on Sullivan, SHINDIG!, HULLABALOO, and again all over the radio with various hits “I’m Crying”,“Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, et al. All good stuff for sure. “House” was the only ANIMALS single I had, then mid 1966 I bought “The Best of The Animals” album. It was wonderful, gaining a heavy rotation on my turntable. One tune in particular blew me away, “Boom, Boom”. I needed to know more about this recording and who is JOHN LEE HOOKER, the songwriter. I take the bus to TSS which had a great record department. The older guy behind counter, somewhat of a blow hard, knew everything about only what he liked. He once said when describing an album to a customer “it gave me goosebumps on my toe nails, that’s how good that record is”. “WTF is he was talking about?”, I thought.  I searched the bins for HOOKER to no avail. There appeared to be no album nor single by JOHN LEE HOOKER. I was frustrated but determined to find something/anything.The guy at the counter just said, “Nope” when I asked. He obviously either didn’t know who JOHN LEE HOOKER was, OR saw a fourteen year old boy and thought, “get outta here, punk”. A few other less stocked record stores had no HOOKER either.

   Then, two years later while working as a summer intern on Wall Street, all of 16 years old, lo and behold in WALL STREET RECORDS I find the “Concert at Newport” album by JOHN LEE HOOKER. I couldn’t wait to get home to check it out. Amazing, just Mr. Hooker and a bassist, recorded live in 1963. Opening track is “I Can’t Quit You Baby Blues”. A few months later the same tune is on side two of LED ZEPPELIN’S debut album (not credited to JL HOOKER) and it was the opening number when I saw them at FILLMORE EAST, May of 1969.

   Another tune I heard on the radio was “Smokestack Lightning” by a band called SMOKESTACK LIGHTNIN’. I heard this particular song before (Yardbirds) but not like this version, this was slow and deliberate. I knew it was written by HOWLING’WOLF as was “Spoonful” but who was this HOWLIN’ WOLF. Oh my…I got the HOWLIN’ WOLF album (released 1962) aka “The Rocking Chair” lp, and that collection led me to WILLIE DIXON whose recordings were very hard to find. But, I did it…

   In short, the original or so I thought “original” recordings were great upon first listen but eventually I realized these Brits were only reinventing American blues music which me, an American, had never heard until…

to be continued…