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Friday, 21 October 2016

45RPM: #113 Smoke Stack Lightning - Howlin' Wolf (1956)

Smoke Stack Lightning / You Can't Be Beat
Chess (#1618)
Produced by Philip Chess, Leonard Chess and Willie Dixon
Released March 1956
US R&B Charts #11

A-Side: Smoke Stack Lightning
 B-Side: You Can't Be Beat
(Both written by Chester Burnett)

The UK Release of these two tracks in 1956 was on London Records in the form of an EP.


It was also reissued as a 7" in it's own right on the Pye International label in 1964 and featured a different B-Side. The song would reach #42 in the UK Singles Chart.

Co-Founder of Chess Philip Chess
Died 19th October 2016
Age 95

The day after I posted about Chuck Berry, another great artist from the Chess stable, one of the co-founders of the label passed away.  Phil Chess and his brother Leonard Chess had created the Chess label in 1950 (after taking control of what had previously been called Aristocrat Records. Leonard had been involved with them since 1947). They would specialize in The Blues and brought on board a wealth of important Blues Musicians. Howlin' Wolf was one of them and he stayed with the label basically up until his death in 1976!

I actually only saw this news a couple of hours ago and so as a tribute to Phil Chess I wanted to post this one today. 

It's another Classic Chess Single and a pretty famous blues song that has been covered by many artists down through the years. In the early to mid-1960s, it became a live staple of British beat groups, including the Yardbirds, Manfred Mann, the Animals, the Groundhogs, and the Who as well as American groups, such as Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Electric Prunes, and the Wailers. The song has also been performed or recorded by Muddy Waters, Jimmy Rogers, Fenton Robinson, Lucky Peterson, John Lee Hooker, John Mayer, Bob Dylan, Gillan, Mike Harrison, Soundgarden, Widespread Panic, moe., Gov't Mule, Lester Butler, George Thorogood, Aerosmith, Bintangs, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Big Head Todd and the Monsters.

"Smokestack Lightning" received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1999, honoring its lasting historical significance. It is ranked number 291 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". In 1985, the song was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in the "Classics of Blues Recordings" category. It is also included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame list of the "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll". In 2009, "Smokestack Lightning" was selected for permanent preservation in the National Recording Registry of the U.S. Library of Congress.

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