Tuesday, October 4, 2011


There are blues records, and then there are Willie Dixon blues records. "Little Red Rooster", "Spoonful", "Evil", "Hoochie Coochie Man", "Wang Dang Doodle", "My Babe", "I Ain't Superstitious", "Back Door Man" - the list of the classic tunes he wrote goes on and on. Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters used to berate Dixon for giving the other guy the best songs. His songs have been recorded by everybody from The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and Cream to Megadeth and Styx. Not to mention ripped off big time by Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin.

Yet, like a lot of great songwriters, he couldn't have a hit by singing his own compositions. He did make some records for Checker in the mid-1950s, but for the most part, his career as a recording artist remains obscure. Of course, one reason for that could be the above record (cut for Willie's own Yambo label), which is one of the strangest and most sexually explicit "blues" records ever released. The reason I say "blues" and not blues is because it's not really a blues record - the piano (played by longtime Chess session man Lafayette Leake) is not played in a blues style - it's jazzy and slow, like you'd hear at 2 AM in some back-alley club where hard-boiled gumshoes hang out. That piano is virtually the only musical instrument on the record. The rest of the record is filled with dialogue and a VERY short chorus. 

It starts with two guys, obviously in a hotel room or boardinghouse of some sort, listening to the noises emanating through the paper-thin wall from the room next door. One guy tells the other, "oh, he's pettin' his baby" and sings a short melody that he's heard coming from the room from time to time.

Then the action shifts to the other room, where the guy is telling his baby what he'll give her and how much he loves her. Then a female coo is heard, and at first you think he's actually talking to a baby. But then the female speaks up (the "female" being portrayed by one of the guys in the band - or Willie himself - in a scratchy falsetto), and you realize that even though he's calling her "baby" and she's calling him "daddy", this ain't no father-daughter relationship (though if it is, that makes this record even more disturbing).

Well, the "baby"s and "daddy"s get more and more suggestive, and before you know it this record becomes the aural (no pun intended) equivalent of a porn flick! When listening to this, stick around to the very end for one of the best (and truest) endings to what happens here.

One last note: a friend of mine told me a story that someone (who is a musician) told him about Willie. Sometime in the 1970s the musician was on a blues tour, with Willie as a headliner. In one of the towns the tour stopped in, the promoter put everybody up in a hotel that was literally infested with flies. The musicians went to each others' rooms to socialize, but when they went to Willie's room there wasn't ONE fly in his room that they could see. The musician asked Willie, "how'd you deal with the flies?", and Dixon said, "I bunched 'em". The musician didn't know what Willie meant until Willie pointed to one corner of the room - in which there sat a rather large pile of human excrement, with flies buzzing all around it.

Willie Dixon - Petting The Baby (Yambo 777-14/777-15) - 1973


  1. It was worth sitting through the whole thing for the final two seconds. Pretty much summed up the rest of the "song."