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.

Kinks, Stones and Pretties, in some of their glory

We’ve been meaning to do this for a while: finding a way of linking the trees with music. So we’ve taken excerpts from the tree in rough chronological order and added the chance to listen to samples from some of the tracks, by linking to the UK iTunes sites. Hope you like it.

Start at the top left hand corner of the tree. The Kinks first line-up:
KSP Kinks 1

And no surprise about our representative musical selection:
You Really Got Me – The Kinks: The Singles Collection

Not every band in the tree has music we can trace in MP3 version, unfortunately, so for the time being we pass over Mark Four, but find ourselves looking at The Birds, featuring the teenage and no doubt fresh faced Ron Wood. If you listen to their music you feel you know it, but the guitar and mouth organ tells you one thing, the bass another and the vocals are no one you know.

KSP Birds

Hear for yourself:

You’re On My Mind – The Birds – R&B Scene

And then we come to the first line-up of The Pretty Things, whose link to the other bands in the tree is guitarist Dick Taylor, who played bass with the group Pete refers to as the Embryonic Stones (another line-up with no recorded music). Here are The Pretties:


And sounding not unlike the Stones, full of promise and early success, here is their single Rosalyn:

Rosalyn – The Pretty Things – Sounds Of The City – London

And, of course, at the same time we have the first genuine Stones line-up:

KSP RS1 title

KSP RS1 Band

And what music to choose? So much brilliant work. Let’s take their first UK number one single, the Womack and Womack song:

It’s All Over Now (Mono Version) – Singles Collection: The London Years

Now at aroundthe same time The Creation descended from Mark Four, later on bringing Kim Gardner from the Birds with them.

KSP Creation 1

The Creation’s most successful release was Painter Man, with Kenny Picket on vocals, sounding, to some of us, like a poor man’s Kinks.

Painter Man – Our Music Is Red – With Purple Flashes

They sound almost a different band when Bob Garner sings.

How Does It Feel to Feel (UK Version) – Our Music Is Red – With Purple Flashes

One intriguing recording from this time is Hey Joe, in what sounds like a somewhat clumsy attempt to reproduce the Jimi Hendrix version, even down to the ‘walking bass’, at least for the first half or so of the track, before it shifts mood into curious semi-spoken mode.

Compare the two:

Hey Joe – Our Music Is Red – With Purple Flashes

Hey Joe – Are You Experienced

Yet, here is Wikipedia on the subject. The song, of course, was already a standard, but at a much faster tempo.

“Some accounts credit the slower version of the song by the British band The Creation as being the inspiration for Hendrix’s version; Chandler and Hendrix saw them perform the song after Jimi arrived in the UK, although The Creation’s version was not released until after Hendrix’s.”

The plot thickens.

Back, now to the Kinks, in line-up 1a, with John Dalton and Pete Quaife both featuring on bass, although who played on which recordings seems rather murky.

KSP Kinks 1a

And one of many brilliant records from this period:

Waterloo Sunset – The Kinks: The Singles Collection

And then The Creation in second and final lineup:
KSP Creation 2

A song from the era:

The Girls Are Naked – Our Music Is Red – With Purple Flashes

And on to The Pretty Things, where it just never seemed to work out quite right. It must have been galling for the band to compare the rise of the Stones with their own fate. Here are line-ups 2-5:

KSP PT 2-5

And some of their singles and album tracks:

Line-up 2

Midnight to Six Man – Get the Picture?

Line-up 3

Death Of A Socialite – Emotions

Line-up 4.

Balloon Burning – Resurrection SF Sorrow Live at Abbey Road

This is from their ‘rock opera’ S.F. Sorrow, written before the Who’s Tommy, and the recording is from a live version featuring David Gilmore.

Line-up 5

October 26 – Parachute

Meanwhile the Stones were ruling the world in their second line-up, Mick Taylor replacing Brian Jones on guitar.


Oddly, though, this line-up had no UK number one singles, although five albums in a row – from Let it Bleed to Goats Head Soup – all went to number 1. Their best performing single in the UK was the first with this line-up Brown Sugar, number 2 in the UK, number 1 in the US.

Brown Sugar – Sticky Fingers (2009 Remastered Version)

KSP Kinks 2

The Kinks, meanwhile, fell, rose, and fell again. Line-up 2, with Dalton officially established on bass, struggled, charting only with Victoria.

Victoria – The Kinks: The Singles Collection

KSP Kinks 3

A year later John Gosling came in on keyboards, giving us line-up 3, which produced one of the classics of all time, Lola. But after that chart success, for both singles and albums was elusive.

Lola – The Kinks: The Singles Collection

The Pretty Things fared no better. Line-up 5 called it a day in June 1971, but then the band reformed in November, creating line up 6 and, a few years later, 7, but with little success.

KSP PT6 and 7

The last three albums are still available but not in the iTunes store. Here are the Amazon links for those who are perhaps too curious for their own good:

Freeway Madness was from line-up 6 and didn’t chart. Line-up 7 gave us Silk Torpedo (US charts 104) and Savage Eye (US charts 163). And that, more or less, was that except for a brief period with a name change to Metropolis.

To rub it in the Rolling Stones, in line-up 3, continued their run of album success, especially in the US.


Singles, during this period, didn’t do quite as well, although Miss You was a US number 1 (number 3 in the UK – what had they done to offend us? Or was it just bad luck to be up against John Travolta and Olivia Newton John, as well as Boney M, that week?).

Miss You – Some Girls

The Kinks held on for a while. Line-up 4 now.

KSP Kinks 4

Some modest success. The track ‘Rock and Roll Fantasy’ charted in the US at 30, and from the link below, seems to have found its place in the US.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy – 7th Inning Stretch (The Original Soundtrack to the ESPN TV Show)

Line-up 5 is the last in the tree. Read Pete’s words carefully! A prophet in his own time.

KSP Kinks 5

(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman – The Ultimate Collection

If you are still with us, thank you for reading through to the end. If you enjoyed this, maybe you need the print !

Order here:
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Out in the Streets, and the London R&B Explosion

We have just added two superb trees to the shop: Out in the Streets, which documents the early punk scene in New York, and the London R&B Explosion, which looks at a similar burst of energy, culminating in the Rolling Stones, in London about two decades earlier.

Just until the end of August these two trees will be available at a huge discount: £150 against the normal selling price of £250, while stocks last. Click on the trees to go to the shop.

Out in StreetsLondon R&B Explosion

Booze & Drugs & Rock & Roll

Is rock and roll a bad influence on our children, or, indeed, on us? And what
about movies? In 1999 an American research team decided to find out. They
set out to ‘examine the frequency of substance use in the most popular
movie rentals and songs of 1996 and 1997’. Lets leave movies for
another time, and see what they found out about songs.

Taking 1000 songs from Billboard, Radio and Records magazines, and the

College Music Journal, the researchers broke them down into five genres:

Country and Western; Alternative Rock; Hot-100; Rap and Heavy Metal.

Of the songs surveyed there are a few with tree connections. No Rap Rock
Family Tree 
exists, sadly, and late 90s Country is a bit of a Rock Family Tree
blind spot, but Alt Rock features Oasis (Heady Days in Madchester Vol 1)
with songs such as ‘Champagne Supernova’ (tick),
 and ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ (cross).

Hot 100 includes Eric Clapton, Change the World and Heavy Metal has Ozzy Osbourne ‘See You on The Other Side’, and, oddly, The Stones, ‘Anybody Seen My Baby?’

The findings? No surprise that ‘illicit drugs’ were mentioned in 63% of rap songs,
and including all ‘substances’ pushes the figure up to 75% . But only 20% of 
Hot-100 and Alt-Rock songs are similarly contaminated, and the numbers fall 
to 14% of Country and Western and a shockingly clean-living 12% of Heavy Metal. Who knew? And why didn’t they investigate the use of coffee?




Deep Purple Hypertrees, Links and Loops

Delving into the names in the Deep Purple tree yields some unexpected riches.

Reggie McBride, who shows up in the sadly shortlived Tommy Bolin Band in 1976 played on Billy Preston’s album ‘It’s My Pleasure’, released in ‘75, also featuring Stevie Wonder on harmonica on a couple of tracks.

Billy Preston, best known, probably, for his incredible performance of ‘That’s The Way God Planned It’ in the concert for Bangladesh, and the collaboration ‘With You I’m Born Again’ with Syreeta, about which, well, opinions may differ, also of course, worked with the Stones, where he overlapped for a year with Ronnie Wood (read about it here in Rock’s Back Pages, and view the Kinks, Stones, Pretties tree here – Ronnie is right at the bottom).

Ronnie Wood is the brother of singer Art Wood, and they played together, with Rod Stewart, Kenny Lane, Kenney Jones and Ian MacLagan in Quiet Melon, which, when Art left to take up graphic design, would evolve through the Small Faces into the Faces. But before that, Art Wood was founder of the modestly titled Artwoods, a band with Jon Lord on keyboards, which is where the Deep Purple tree begins. Got all that?

We are working on an interactive version of the Rock Family Trees that will do all this for you in a few clicks. Not there yet, but one day …