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….