Driving Wheel

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Not to be confused with the Foghat or T-Bone Burnett songs.
"Driving Wheel Blues"
Single by Roosevelt Sykes aka The Honey Dripper
B-side "Barrel House Man"
Released 1936 (1936)
Format 10" 78 rpm record
Recorded February 18, 1936
Genre Blues
Length 3:06
Label Decca (Cat. no. 7252)
Roosevelt Sykes aka The Honey Dripper singles chronology
"Sugar Hill Blues"/ "Take Off Box"
(1936)
"Driving Wheel Blues"
(1936)
"Night Time Is the Right Time"/ "Little and Low"
(1937)

"Driving Wheel", also called "Drivin' Wheel" or "Driving Wheel Blues", is blues song recorded by Roosevelt Sykes (listed as "The Honey Dripper" on early singles) in 1936. It became a standard of the blues[1] and has been recorded by numerous artists, including Junior Parker and Al Green who had R&B and pop chart successes with the song.

Original song[edit]

Roosevelt Sykes' "Driving Wheel Blues" is a solo twelve-bar blues, with Sykes providing piano accompaniment to his vocal. The song is performed at a medium tempo with the opening lyrics:

My baby don't have to work, she don't have to rob and steal (2X)
I give her everything she needs, I am her driving wheel...

Sykes' song was released before Billboard magazine or a similar service began tracking such singles. He later recorded additional studio and live versions of the song.

Junior Parker/Al Green versions[edit]

Junior Parker, as "Little Junior Parker", recorded "Driving Wheel" for Duke Records (335). Although Parker's vocal line and lyrics follow Sykes' version, the song uses a group arrangement with a horn section and adds a break in the middle of the song. Most subsequent versions of "Driving Wheel" show Parker's influence, including the distinctive bass line. When the song was released in 1961, it spent eleven weeks in the Billboard R&B chart, where it reached #5; it also reached #85 in the pop chart.[2]

Soul/gospel singer Al Green later had a R&B (#46) and pop chart hit (#115) with "Driving Wheel" in 1971 (Hi Records 2188).[2] The song was also included on his 1971 Al Green Gets Next to You album as well as various compilation albums. Green's version uses a different arrangement, in keeping with his soul music approach.

Other versions[edit]

"Driving Wheel" has been recorded by a variety of artists, including B.B. King (1961 from his My Kind of Blues album); Paul Butterfield Blues Band (1967 The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw); Junior Wells (recorded a live version 1968 for his Sings Live at the Golden Bear album, in 1977 he recorded another live version with Buddy Guy from Live at Montreux); Albert King (1970s Funky London, released in 1994); Luther Allison (1974 Luther's Blues); and Etta James (2004 Blues to the Bone album). It has, in addition, been performed live by Trigger Hippy and Ryan Montbleau Band.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Herzhaft, Gerard (1992). Encyclopedia of the Blues. University of Arkansas Press. p. 445. ISBN 1-55728-252-8. 
  2. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (1988). Top R&B Singles 1942–1988. Record Research, Inc. pp. 174, 319. ISBN 0-89820-068-7.