Monday, March 28, 2011

“Meet Me in the Bottom”

Monday morning has come around again—hope it’s going easy on everybody!  If not, maybe some Monday Morning Blues will help!

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!


  1. It's always good to hear from the Howlin' Wolf again. Thanks, John!

  2. Hi Roy: You can never get enough Howlin' Wolf is what I say! Thanks.


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