Release The Hound
PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED live and studio recordings from one of the most beloved figures in blues history. It's Hound Dog and the Houserockers in all their ragged glory, with plenty of slashing guitars, gut-wrenching vocals and boogie rhythms.
WINNER OF THE 2004 BLUES MUSIC AWARD FOR "HISTORICAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR"
(a) Recorded November 22-24, 1974 at The Smiling Dog Saloon, Cleveland, OH by Richard Whittington/Whisker Recording.
(B) Recorded January 18, 1974 at Northwestern University, Evanston, IL by Ken Rasek for broadcast on WXRT-FM, Chicago, IL
(C) Recorded December, 1971 at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (live performance board tape)
(D) Recorded either May 25, June 2, 1971 or September, 1973 at Sound Studios,
Chicago, IL by Stu Black
(E) Recorded March, 1975 in Sydney, Australia, possibly as audio track of ABC
television broadcast, or for broadcast on 2MBS-FM, Sydney
Hound Dog Taylor: Guitar and Vocals
Brewer Phillips: Guitar
Ted Harvey: Drums
or Levi Warren: Drums on tracks 3, 4 & 8
Produced by Bruce Iglauer with Bob DePugh, Tim Kolleth and the Alligator Records Staff. Tracks 9, 11 & 12 produced by Bruce Iglauer and Wesley Race.
Mastered by Dan Stout and Bruce Iglauer at Colossal Mastering, Chicago, IL.
Cover painting by Jon Langford.
Packaging design by Kevin Niemiec.
Cover painting based on a photo by Marc PoKempner.
Back cover photo by Jack Lardomita. Inside photos by Jeff Nield.
Special thanks to Wesley Race, Bob Koester, WXRT-FM, WMMS-FM, Dick Waterman, David Gessner, Jeff Boutwell, Kit Rachlis, Scott Billington, Jan Loveland, Chris Ruhle and Graeme Flanagan.
No other blues band ever took such unadulterated joy in making music as Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers. Whether they were playing for fifty people in a South Side Chicago neighborhood bar or thousands at a festival, they played the blues for the pure fun of it.
Their music was the rawest of any Chicago blues band. With just three pieces--two guitars and a drum set--they played loud, long and loose. Hound Dog and Brewer Phillips pushed their guitars and amps into rough-edged distortion; for them, the best volume setting was always 10. They loved to see people dance, and every song they played-mostly shuffles and boogies-was intensely, infectiously rhythmic. Tempos careened dangerously out of control; Hound Dog, Phillips (no one called him Brewer) and minimalist drummer Ted Harvey loved to make the music as energized as possible by speeding up as they went along. Frantic and wild were just fine, thank you. Even when they slowed it down for a deep blues, the intensity never faltered. Hound Dog rammed his slide (made from a sawed-off kitchen chair leg with a brass pipe pounded inside) up the neck of his Japanese Kingston guitar to create piercing metal-on-metal leads. Phillips carried the ever-changing bass lines on his 1954 Fender Telecaster, alternating boogie patterns with hammered notes and percussive fills. And cutting through the wall of noise came Hound Dog's high tenor voice, pushed to (and past) the edge of breaking, singing timeless blues stories and exhorting his band to keep the pressure on. The fuel that fed this blues machine was Canadian Club, and as the night went on, band and audience shared in the alcohol-charged frenzy.
Hound Dog and the HouseRockers played for over a decade in Chicago's tiny black neighborhood clubs before ever touring. They played almost every night, not only because they were wildly entertaining, but also because they were the cheapest blues band in town. When I met them in 1970, they were working for $15 per man on the weekend nights and $10 per man during the week. Hound Dog would plug a vocal mic into his Sears Silvertone amplifier, occasionally sharing it when Phillips wanted to sing in a voice as cracked as his teeth. Hound Dog always played sitting down (he had bad feet), but he could put on more of a show in his folding chair than most musicians could on a concert stage--stomping his feet, throwing his head back, leaning into his guitar, letting the sweat roll, telling indecipherable jokes that he'd never finish because he was laughing too hard. Meanwhile, Phillips would dance while he played, kicking his leg in the air until his shirttail came out, wandering into the audience (which was usually only a foot or two away) and yelling,"well, all right!" Then they'd switch roles, with Hound Dog carrying the bass part while Phillips poured out amazing, incendiary leads, squeezing the strings into submission. Ted Harvey played it cool, chomping on his wad of gum (he couldn't play without it) and just pushing the beat forever forward, never playing too much but always keeping the groove, even when he fell asleep at the drums after one drink too many.
I first saw the band in 1970, playing a three-hour, non-stop Sunday afternoon show at Florence's Lounge at 54th Place and Shields on the South Side. It was magic. I created Alligator Records specifically to record them, and we issued two albums before Hound Dog died of cancer in 1975. In the four years between the first album and his death, the band gigged across much of North America. They played rock bars and campuses from Boston to Seattle and took one overseas tour--to Australia and New Zealand with Freddie King, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. They won a legion of fans, who loved them for their spontaneous, unpredictable shows and primal, pre-punk blues attitude.
Their first major tour was a four-college run through New England set up by the Boston Blues Society in December of 1971, shortly after the release of Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers, their debut album. They played for the then-princely sum of $400 per night plus rooms. Amazingly, a live board tape of the Harvard show (with Levi Warren on drums, as Ted's day job kept him from making the tour) was preserved, and three tracks on this new CD are from that one night. As the band became staples of 'progressive rock' radio, they recorded a few broadcasts, and one song here is from a recording made at Northwestern University in 1974 for Chicago's WXRT. They also were taped for WMMS at the Smiling Dog Saloon in Cleveland, and the recording went so well that I hired the same company to record two more nights. Six songs on this disc come from those club sets. Three other songs here are unreleased studio tracks;
I can't tell from the notes whether these were cut for the first or second studio album. The disc closes with a wonderful performance that may be the audio track for an Australian TV show called Radio With Pictures on which Hound Dog appeared in 1975, during that all-star Australian tour.
For years, both fans and Alligator staff have been asking for more Hound Dog material. I didn't believe that the remaining tapes were technically worthy of being released, but the amazing efforts of mastering engineer Dan Stout truly brought these recordings back from the dead. There are still some warts-distortion, some odd balances, and tape hiss-but nothing that hides the immediacy, passion and total joy of a performance by Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers. This music brings back wonderful memories, and, even though he's been gone for almost 30 years, it makes Hound Dog's favorite expression true again--"I'm with you, baby. I'm with you. I'm natural born with you!"