Before writing a bit of background about today’s song, “Meet Me in the Bottom,” I’ll point at that, starting next week , the Monday Morning Blues series will be transformed to the Any Woman’s Blues series, & this will continue for the foreseeable future. There are a few reasons for this. First, as long-time readers know, the Monday Morning Blues series started as a way for me to work on recording old blues numbers, first on webcam & then later as mp3s.
This month that changed, because I wrapped up a big (for me) recording project in February, & I slotted myself into the Homegrown Radio series as a way of making some of that material available to readers. However, my focus over the next several months will be on performing, not recording, so I don’t see myself posting my own recordings here for awhile. Given that, I decided that two blues vlogs per week was too much for Robert Frost’s Banjo, & since my interest is currently weighted toward the Any Woman’s Blues series, I decided to keep this series, but on the regular “blues day.”
“Meet Me in the Bottom” is a song by the great Howlin’ Wolf, AKA Chester Burnett. There are a handful of performers who were absolutely crucial in developing my interest in the blues, & Howlin’ Wolf was definitely one of those. The power & dynamism of Howlin’ Wolf’s vocals define a lot of what the blues means to me, & I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I followed the blues trail back to his own roots when I later became enthralled by the music of Charlie Patton & Son House, both of whom Howlin’ Wolf knew as a young man on the Dockery Plantation in Mississippi. Howlin’ Wolf, along with several other notables, “electrified” the Delta sound when he moved north & became part of the post World War II Chicago Blues scene.
& indeed, the song I’m featuring today is a Howlin’ Wolf composition that’s essentially an updated version of the Delta standard “Rollin’ & Tumblin’,” also known as “Roll & Tumble Blues.” The song was recorded first by Hambone Willie Newbern as “Roll & Tumble Blues,” but the very similar Muddy Waters’ song, “Rollin’ & Tumblin’,” is copyrighted in Waters’ name (McKinley Morganfield). Not only has “Rollin’ & Tumblin’” been covered by countless blues artists, both major & unknown, but the song, which has an odd variant on a standard blues progression by starting on the IV chord, has also been re-done as follows (a partial list!):
- “Travelin’ Riverside Blues” & “If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day” (Robert Johnson)
- “Brownsville Blues” (Sleepy John Estes)
- “Goin’ Back to Memphis” (Sunnyland Slim)
- “Down the Gravel Road” (Mississippi Fred McDowell)
- “The Engineer Blows the Whistle, the Fireman Rings the Bell” (RL Burnside)
- “Red Sun” (Johnny Shines)
- “Meet Me in the Bottom” (Howlin’ Wolf)
- It’s also related to “Minglewood Blues” by Cannon’s Jug Stompers, tho that’s not a slide song
As blues aficianados will know, this particular video comes from a legendary 1966 Newport Folk Festival, which included a true dream blues line-up of Son House, Skip James, Bukka White & Howlin’ Wolf. There is a longer (10:25) version of video, which you can watch here—this includes not only a heated exchange between Son House & Howlin’ Wolf as the latter introduces the song, but also some rather amazing clowning with the guitar by the Wolf himself. This version just features the song itself—vocal & slide guitar by Howlin’ Wolf, backed by the great Hubert Sumlin on guitar, Andrew McMahon (bass), Sam Jones (sax), S.P. Leary (drums).
Hope you enjoy this amazing music!