Willie Dixon and the Roots of Rock Family Trees

If Rock Family Trees had DNA then traces of Willie Dixon would be found everywhere. Rolling Stones, Little Red Rooster: Willie Dixon (Kinks, Stones and Pretties, London R&B Explosion). Cream, Spoonful: Willie Dixon (Alexis Korner, Clapton early and late, Steve Winwood). Jeff Beck, You Shook Me: Willie Dixon (Jeff Beck, Beck Page and Yardbirds). Bluesbreakers: All Your Love: Willie Dixon (John Mayall). Led Zeppelin: Whole Lotta Love, after legal action admitted to have been derived from Willie Dixon’s You Need Love (Beck, Page and Yardbirds, and others).

Check it out for yourself:

Here are some more examples:

Alexis Korner, I’m Built for Comfort

Savoy Brown: Wang Dang Doodle

Dr Feelgood, You’ll Be Mine

The Merseybeats: You Can’t Judge a Book By It’s Cover

Fleetwood Mac: My Baby’s Sweeter

Georgie Fame: Seventh Son

Spencer Davis: My Babe

It’s an old cliche, but if you want to see an illustration of what we could call ‘music laundering’ – how British players imported black Chicago blues and rendered them in a form acceptable to white American audiences – compare Eric Clapton’s solo on All Your Love with the Otis Rush version.

Listen to the solo starting around 1:22, and then listen at 1.20 to this:

And a further twist, Willie Dixon’s performances of his own songs don’t always have the power other singers sometimes can manage. Compare his version of Spoonful, at the top of this page, with Howlin’ Wolf, one of the greatest performances of any Willie Dixon song. Actually, make that one of the greatest performances of any song, full stop. Turn up the volume. And then some more.

‘Iron Man’ Michael Burks at Biscuits and Blues

So I just happen to be in San Francisco at the moment, staying round the corner from a small club called Biscuits and Blues. Thought I’d pop in to see what was on. A few days later and it would have been Maria Muldour, putting her camel to bed, but instead it was ‘Iron Man’ Michael Burks and his band. Steamy straight down the middle blues, bit of B.B. King, but with Carlos Santana-like sustain, over a swirling hammond organ and a solid rhythm section. A great way to spend a couple of hours, especially when accompanied by seafood jambalaya. You might think not much of a tree connection, but a bit of youtubeing reveals something rather unlikely: an ‘Eric Clapton versus Michael Burks’ comparison, in which Burks is judged by the video’s creator to come out better. If you do watch this please remember that I did not choose the images to go with the Burks track, which comes in at about 3.00 mins.

For the sake of those of a sensitive disposition, I’m just going to give you a link rather than embedding the video clip. And if you just want to hear clips of the music follow the Amazon link below through to the MP3 store.


A new chart from the perfect mixtape site has some, predictable enough, entries from Rock Family Tree veterans Eric Clapton, Elton John (whose extensive career is the subject of an extensive, as yet unpublished Pete Frame Rock Family Tree) and Madchester/New Order precursors Joy Division.
Interestingly, in his Heady Days Of Manchester: 2 Tree (Researched and Drawn March 1998) Pete Frame reveals that during early 1978 he was one of the executives at Stiff Records unimpressed by Joy Division (who had recently changed their name from Warsaw) at an audition for the label.
The idea that early Joy Division were a shadow(play?) of the band they were to become – in later gigs and on record – was a view I heard repeated while researching material for Looking For The Light Through The Pouring Rain, Kevin Cummins photo book document of Manchester – before and aft Madchester – an excellent companion piece to Pete’s 2 Trees.

Here’s the entire perfectmixtape chart of Britain’s Favourite Love Songs

1. ‘Sex On Fire’ by Kings of Leon

2. ‘Let’s Get It On’ by Marvin Gaye

3. ‘Let’s Stay Together’ by Al Green

4. ‘Wonderful Tonight’ by Eric Clapton

5. ‘Your Song’ by Elton John

6. ‘I Will Always Love You’ by Whitney Houston

7. ‘November Rain’ by Guns ‘N’ Roses

8. ‘Bed of Roses’ by Bon Jovi

9. ‘Hello, I Love You’ by The Doors

10. ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ by Joy Division