WoW #12: Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers – “Sadie”

Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers – “Sadie”

“They were inseparable, and they played together like brothers, sensing each other’s musical twists and turns before they happened, feeding energy and good spirits from one to the other.”

Thus wrote Bruce Iglauer of Alligator Records of singer/guitarist Theodore Roosevelt “Hound Dog” Taylor, guitarist Brewer Phillips and drummer Ted Harvey – the band of brothers who inspired him to start a record label.

“They fought like brothers too,” recalled Iglauer in 1982, “as they crisscrossed the country from gig to gig in Hound Dog’s old Ford station wagon, arguing constantly about who was the best lover, who had the best woman, who was the best mayor Chicago ever had, who was or wasn’t out of tune the night before. The arguments weren’t always in fun, either. From time to time a knife appeared, and finally even a gun.”

When Iglauer met them in Chicago in 1970, the trio was earning 45 dollars a gig, a cut-rate fee that allowed them to play establishments that normally couldn’t afford live entertainment. They appeared regularly at the Sunday afternoon jam at Florence’s, where blues heavyweights like Big Walter Horton, Magic Slim, Carey Bell and Lefty Dizz would show up to sit in. Iglauer, floored by the trio’s unbridled energy but unable to convince his boss at Delmark Records to give them a shot, decided to go out on his own. The band cut forty songs in two nights.

“We couldn’t bring in all their friends and fans, but we did bring in the same battered amps, cranked them up to the same maximum volume, poured the whiskey, and the band cut the same songs they played every Sunday at Florence’s because they wouldn’t rehearse and hated to play the same song twice,” Iglauer wrote of the studio sessions that spawned Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers (1971) and Natural Boogie (1974).

Following their debut release and until Taylor’s death in December 1975, the HouseRockers broke out, playing clubs and theaters in college towns across America. They became especially popular in the Boston area, where their high-octane boogie is said to have inspired a young George Thorogood. They even toured Australia and New Zealand with Freddie King.

“The purists called them a blues band, but Hound Dog called it rock and roll,” says Iglauer.

Here’s the unrelenting and unmistakable groove of “Sadie” from the album Natural Boogie.

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