Hoochie Coochie Man
|"I'm Your Hoochie Cooche Man"|
|Single by Muddy Waters|
|B-side||"She's So Pretty"|
|Format||Ten-inch 78 rpm & seven-inch 45 rpm records|
|Recorded||Chicago, January 7, 1954|
|Label||Chess (no. 1560)|
|Muddy Waters singles chronology|
"Hoochie Coochie Man" (originally titled "I'm Your Hoochie Cooche Man")[b] is a blues standard written by Willie Dixon and first recorded by Muddy Waters in 1954. The song is based on hoodoo folk magic themes and an instantly recognizable stop-time musical arrangement. It became one of Muddy Waters' most popular and identifiable songs and helped secure Dixon's role as Chess Records' chief songwriter.
The song is a classic of Chicago blues and was recorded by the Muddy Waters' band that helped define the genre. Although Muddy Waters explored similar themes in earlier songs, Dixon's lyrics heighten the machismo posturing to the point of irony. The stop-time riff was "soon absorbed into the lingua franca of blues, R&B, jazz, and rock and roll", according to musicologist Robert Palmer and is used in several popular songs.
After the song's initial release in 1954, it became a feature of Muddy Waters' performances, including in his acclaimed set at the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival. Several live renditions recorded at different points in his career have been issued. The original song appears on Muddy Waters' first album and many compilations. Numerous musicians have recorded "Hoochie Coochie Man" in a variety of styles, making it one of the most interpreted Muddy Waters or Willie Dixon songs. It has been acknowledged by the Grammy Hall of Fame among others and is included in the US Library of Congress' National Recording Registry.
By 1954, Muddy Waters had been recording for Chess Records (and its Artistocrat predecessor) for seven years and chalked up a number of record chart hits. One of his first singles was "Gypsy Woman", recorded in 1947. Palmer describes the song as "a fine beginning; it looks to the immediate past in musical style, while the lyric forecasts a direction Muddy was to pursue with great success". It deals with the theme of superstition:
You know the gypsy woman told me that you your mother's bad luck child
Well you havin' a good time now, but that'll be trouble after awhile
"Louisiana Blues", which Muddy Waters recorded in 1950 with Little Walter accompanying on harmonica, expands the theme. He sings of traveling to New Orleans, Louisiana, to acquire a mojo hand, a hoodoo amulet or talisman; with it, he hopes "to show all you good lookin' women just how to treat your man". Similar lyrics appeared in "Hoodoo Hoodoo", a 1946 recording by John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson: "Well now I'm goin' down to Louisiana, and buy me another mojo hand".[c] Although Muddy Waters was ambivalent about hoodoo,[d] he saw the music as having its own power:
When you're writin' them songs that are coming from down that way [Mississippi Delta], you can't leave out somethin' about that mojo thing. Because this is what black people really believed in at that time ... even today [circa 1980], when you play the old blues like me, you can't get from around that.
Willie Dixon had been singing and playing bass with the Big Three Trio since 1946. After the group disbanded in 1951, he began working for Chess Records. There he served in several capacities, including as a recording session arranger and bassist. Although he had been writing songs for years, label co-owner Leonard Chess was slow to show interest in them. However, in 1953 two songs that Dixon wrote were used by Chess artists: Little Walter recorded "Too Late" and Eddie Boyd recorded "Third Degree", which was Dixon's first composition to enter the record charts. In September, Muddy Waters recorded his "Mad Love (I Want You to Love Me)", which Dixon biographer Mitsutoshi Inaba calls "a test piece for the forthcoming 'Hoochie Coochie Man'" because of its shared lyrical and musical elements. The song became Waters' first record chart success in nearly two years.
The term "hoochie coochie", with variations in the spelling, had been used in different contexts. Appearing the late 19th century, the hoochie coochie was a sexually provocative dance, similar to a belly dance. It was performed by women at salons, also called "hoochie coochies". Although sometimes considered disreputable, the hoochie coochie was popular at carnivals and county fairs, including the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. By the 1910s, the dance declined in popularity, although it appeared sporadically into the 1940s. Inaba also identifies hoochie coochie as referring to a sexually attractive person or a practitioner of hoodoo. In his autobiography, I Am the Blues, Dixon included "hoochie coochie man" in his examples of a seer or a clairvoyant with a connection to folklore of the American South: "This guy is a hoodoo man, this lady is a witch, this other guy's a hoochie coochie man, she's some kind of voodoo person".
Composition and recording
Not long after the success of "Mad Love", Dixon approached Leonard Chess with a song he wrote, "Hoochie Coochie Man". He mentioned that it was right for Muddy Waters and Chess responded, "well, if Muddy likes it, give it to him". At the time, Muddy Waters was performing at the Club Zanzibar in Chicago. Dixon encountered him in the men's room at the club during an intermission and showed him the song. According to Dixon, Muddy Waters took to the tune immediately because it had so many familiar elements and he was able to learn enough to perform it that night. Jimmy Rogers, who was Muddy Waters' second guitarist, remembered that it took a little longer:
Dixon came to the club and he would hum it to Muddy and write the lyrics out. Muddy would work them around for a while until he got it down where he could understand it and fool around with it. He would be onstage and try it out, do a few licks of it. We were building the arrangement, that's what we were really doing.
By January 7, 1954, the arrangement was sufficiently developed and Muddy Waters and his band entered the recording studio to record the song. His group for the recording session is considered the classic Chicago blues band; music critic Bill Janovitz describes them as "a who's who of bluesmen". Muddy Waters sings and plays electric guitar along with Rogers, blues harmonica virtuoso Little Walter, and drummer Elgin Evans, all of whom had been performing with Waters since 1951. (Fred Below, who replaced Evans during 1954, is sometimes listed as the drummer.) Pianist Otis Spann, who joined in 1953, and Dixon, in his debut on double bass for a Waters' recording session, round out the group. Two takes of the song were recorded. Although there are some moments in the alternate take when a player's timing rushes or drags perceptibly, because the band is so tight, the difference with the master is only six seconds (for a nearly three-minute song).[e]
"Hoochie Coochie Man" follows a sixteen-bar blues progression, which is an expansion of the well-known twelve-bar blues pattern. The first four bars are doubled in length so the harmony remains on the tonic for eight bars or one-half of the sixteen bar progression. Dixon explained that expanding twelve-bar blues was in response to amplification, which gave instruments more sustain. The extra bars also increase "the dramatic interplay of silence and sound leading up to the refrain", when used with the repeating stop-time musical figure or riff, according to music writer Graeme M. Boone. For the second eight bars, the song reverts to the last eight of the twelve-bar progression, which functions as a refrain or hook. The different textures provides the tune with a strong contrast, which helps underscore the lyrics. The song is performed at a moderate blues tempo (72 beats per minute) in the key of A. It is notated in 12
8 time and contains three sixteen-bar sections.
A key feature of the song is the use of stop time, or pauses in the music, during the first half of the progression. This musical device is commonly heard in New Orleans jazz, when the instrumentation briefly stops, allowing for a short instrumental solo before resuming. However, Muddy Waters' and Dixon's use of stop time serves to heighten the tension through repetition, followed by a vocal rather than an instrument fill. The accompanying riff, which Dixon described as a five-note figure, is similar to that of "Mad Love". He attributed it to the band and according to Inaba, "this riff was not Dixon's invention, but opening a song with this characteristic rhythm pattern and extending it for a long duration was a novel idea". Although Palmer comments that the entire group phrases the riff in unison, Boone describes it as a "heavy, unhurried counterpoint by all the instruments together". Campbell identifies the opening as actually having "two competing riffs" or contrapuntal motion, with one played by Little Walter on an amplified harmonica and another by Muddy Waters on electric guitar.
For the second eight-bars of the progression, the standard I–IV–V7 structure is followed, which maintains the song's connection to traditional blues. It is performed by the whole band as a shuffle with a triplet rhythm, which Campbell describes as a "free-for-all [with] harmonica trills, guitar riffs, piano chords, thumping bass, [and] shuffle pattern on the drums". He adds, "this kind of dense texture, with independent but interdependent lines, was almost unprecedented in small-group music before rock". However, unlike the polyphony of New Orleans jazz, the instrumentation parallels Muddy Waters' aggressive vocal approach and reinforces the lyrics. The players use of amplification, pushed to the point of distortion, is a key feature of Chicago blues and another rock precedent. In particular, Little Walters' overdriven saxophone-like harmonica playing weaves in and out of the vocal lines, which heightens the drama.
Lyrics and interpretation
"Hoochie Coochie Man" is characterized as "the statement or self-narrative of a man who brags about his machismo as aided by hoodoo power" and a "self-mythologizing testament" by Inaba and Janovitz. Although he explored similar themes in earlier songs, Muddy Waters' approach was more subtle. According to Palmer, Dixon upped the ante with more "flamboyance, macho posturing, and extra-generous helping of hoodoo sensationalism". Dixon claimed that the idea of a seer was inspired by history and the Bible. Palmer added that it fit with the theme of several Muddy Waters' songs, which placed an "emphasis on supernatural elements—gypsies, fortune telling, [and] luck".
Music writer Benjamin Filene discusses the song as having three sections, which deal with the past, present, and future. The opening verse starts before the narrator is born and references "Gypsy Woman", Muddy Waters' 1947 song:
As a boy in the South, Dixon recalled gypsies in covered wagons plying their trade from town to town. In order to enhance their remuneration, the fortune tellers would emphasize auspicious circumstances, especially when doing readings for pregnant women. In the second section, the narrative is in the present and several references are made to charms used by hoodoo conjurers. These include a black cat bone, a John the conqueror root, and a mojo, which was included in Waters' "Louisiana Blues". With their magical powers, the gypsy's prophesy will be borne out: women and the rest of world will take notice. The song concludes with a final section which projects the good fortune into the future. The number seven is prominent: on the seventh hour, on the seventh day, etc. The stringing together of sevens is another good omen and is analogous to the seventh son of a seventh son of folklore. Dixon later expanded the theme in his 1955 song "The Seventh Son".
Each section is linked by a refrain or recurring chorus. It functions as a hook and it differs from the usual "free-associative aspect" of traditional blues. Filene sees this and Dixon's desire to tell complete stories, with the verses building on each other, as sharing elements of pop music. The chorus, "But you know I'm here, everybody knows I'm here, Well you know I'm the hoochie coochie man, everybody knows I'm here", confirms the narrator's identity as both the subject of the gypsy's prophesy as well as a omnipotent prophesier himself. Dixon explained that the use of self-aggrandizing lyrics taps into a part of the audience's psyche, which he felt was a role in blues. Muddy Waters later admitted that the song's grandiosity is supposed to have a comic effect. Music historian Ted Gioia points to the underlying theme of sexuality and virility as sociologically significant. He sees it as challenge to the fear of miscegenation in the dying days of racial segregation in the United States. Record producer Marshall Chess took a simpler view: "It was sex. If you have ever seen Muddy then, the effect he had on women [was clear]. Because the blues, you know, has always been a women's market".
Releases and charts
In early 1954, Chess Records issued "I'm Your Hoochie Cooche Man" backed with "She's So Pretty" on both the standard ten-inch 78 rpm and the newer seven-inch 45 rpm record single formats. It soon became the biggest hit of Muddy Waters' career. The single entered Billboard magazine's Rhythm & Blues Records charts on March 13, 1954, and reached number three on the Juke Box chart and number eight on the Best Seller chart. It remained on the charts for 13 weeks, making it Muddy Waters' longest charting record up to that time (two more Waters-Dixon songs, "Just Make Love to Me (I Just Want to Make Love to You") and "Close to You", both later also lasted 13 weeks).
When Muddy Waters' first album, a compilation titled The Best of Muddy Waters, was released in 1958, it included the song, using the title "Hoochie Coochie", along with several other charting singles. Since then, it has appeared on numerous Muddy Waters' official compilations, including Sail On; McKinley Morganfield a.k.a. Muddy Waters; The Chess Box; His Best: 1947 to 1955; The Best of Muddy Waters – The Millennium Collection; The Anthology (1947–1972); Hoochie Coochie Man: The Complete Chess Masters, Vol. 2: 1952–1958; and The Definitive Collection.
An updated version appeared on Electric Mud, Marshall Chess' attempt in 1968 to reach the psychedelic rock audience with Chicago blues artists. An "unplugged" rendition of the song with Louis Myers on acoustic guitar and George "Mojo" Buford on unamplified harmonica was recorded June 13, 1972, in Lausanne, Switzerland. It later released on the Muddy Waters' rarieties collection One More Mile in 1994. In 1977, he re-recorded the song for I'm Ready, the Grammy Award-winning album produced by Johnny Winter.
The song was a feature of Muddy Waters' performances and several live recordings have been issued. His acclaimed At Newport 1960, one of the first live blues albums, includes a rendition by his later band with Spann, Pat Hare, James Cotton, and Francis Clay. Other live recordings appear on Live in 1958 (recorded in England in 1958 with Spann and Chris Barber's trad jazz band, released in 1993 and re-released as Collaboration in 1995); Authorized Bootleg: Live at the Fillmore Auditorium – San Francisco Nov 04–06 1966 (released 2009); The Lost Tapes (recorded 1971, released 1999); Muddy "Mississippi" Waters – Live (recorded 1977, released 1979); and Live at the Checkerboard Lounge, Chicago 1981 with members of the Rolling Stones (released 2012).
Influence and recognition
"Hoochie Coochie Man" represents Muddy Waters' recording transition from an electrified, but more traditional Delta-based blues of the late 1940s–early 1950s to a newer Chicago blues ensemble sound. The song was important to Dixon's career and signaled a change as well – Chess became convinced of Dixon's value as a songwriter and secured his relationship as such with the label. Muddy Waters soon followed up with several variations on the sixteen-bar stop-time arrangement written by Dixon. These include "I Just Want to Make Love to You", "I'm Ready", and "I'm a Natural Born Lover". They also follow a similar lyrical theme and "helped shape Muddy Waters' image as the testosterone king of the blues", according to Gioia.
The song's figure was modified by Bo Diddley for his March 1955 song "I'm a Man". He reworked it as a four-note riff, which is repeated for the entire song without a progression to other chords. Music critic and writer Cub Koda calls it "certainly the most recognizable blues lick in the world". Muddy Waters, not to be outdone, responded two months later with an answer song to "I'm a Man", titled "Mannish Boy". "Bo Diddley was tracking me down with my beat when he made 'I'm a Man', that's from 'Hoochie Coochie Man.' Then I got on it with 'Mannish Boy' and just drove him out of the way", he commented. Emphasizing the origin of Diddley's song, he sticks to the original first eight-bar phrase from "Hoochie Coochie Man" and includes some of the hoodoo references.
Songwriters also began adapting the phrase for other artists and it was "soon absorbed into the lingua franca of blues, jazz, and rock and roll". In 1955, songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller used the riff for "Riot in Cell Block Number 9" (later reworked by the Beach Boys as "Student Demonstration Time") and "Framed" for the R&B group the Robins. Another Leiber and Stoller composition, "Trouble", was sung by Elvis Presley in the 1958 musical drama King Creole; also in film, Elmer Bernstein quoted the figure in The Man with the Golden Arm, which received a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Original Score in 1955. Dixon commented, "we felt like this was a great achievement for one of these blues phrases to be used in a movie".
In 1984, "I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man" was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1984. A Grammy Hall of Fame Award followed in 1998, which "honor[s] recordings of lasting qualitative or historical significance". The song is included on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's list of the "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll". Representatives of the music industry and press voted it number 226 for Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". In 2004, it was selected for preservation in the US Library of Congress' National Recording Registry, which noted the contributions of the band members.
Recordings by other artists
""Hoochie Coochie Man" is a blues standard and numerous artists have recorded it in a variety of styles. Music critic Bill Janovitz describes the song as "a vital piece of Chicago-style electric blues that links the Delta to rock & roll". Rock musicians are among the many who have interpreted it. Some of the many renditions include:
- Alexis Korner – R&B from the Marquee (1962)
- Jimmy Smith – Got My Mojo Workin (1962)
- Long John Baldry and the Hoochie Coochie Men – Long John's Blues (1964)
- Manfred Mann – The Five Faces of Manfred Mann (1964)
- Nashville Teens – Nashville Teens (1964)
- Graham Bond Organisation – The Sound of '65 (1965)
- The Shadows of Knight – Gloria (1966)
- Chuck Berry – Live at the Fillmore Auditorium (1967)
- Tim Hardin – This Is Tim Hardin (1967)
- Billy Preston – Club Meeting (1967)
- Jimi Hendrix – BBC Sessions (recorded 1967, released 1998) and The Baggy's Rehearsal Sessions (recorded 1969, released 2002)
- Steppenwolf – Steppenwolf (1968)
- Willie Dixon – I Am the Blues (1969)
- Buddy Guy – Buddy and the Juniors (1970)
- The Allman Brothers Band – Idlewild South (1970)
- Freddie King – Woman Across the River (1973)
- New York Dolls – Seven Day Weekend (1973)
- John Mayall – Primal Solos (1977)
- Fear – Get Crazy (1983) and American Beer (2000)
- Jeff Healey – Roadhouse (1989) and Songs from the Road (recorded 2007, released 2009)
- Paul Rodgers – Muddy Water Blues (A Tribute to Muddy Waters) (1993)
- Eric Clapton – From the Cradle (1994)
- B.B. King – Original Blues Masters (1997)
- Etta James – Life, Love & the Blues (as "Hoochie Coochie Gal") (1998)
- Motörhead – Another Perfect Day (bonus track) (2001)
- Jon Lord with the Hoochie Coochie Men – Live at the Basement (2003)
- Steven Seagal with Thunderbox – Mojo Priest (2006)
- Dion – Son of Skip James (2007)
- Although the initial chess single lists the songwriter as "M. Waters", reissues credit Willie Dixon. BMI shows the Songwriter/Composer as Willie Dixon."I M YOUR HOOCHIE COOCHE MAN (Legal Title) – BMI Work #668840". BMI Repertoire. BMI. Retrieved September 9, 2014.
- Some Chess' single pressings also appear as "I'm Your Hoochie Kooche Man"; the original 1958 Chess The Best of Muddy Waters lists it as "Hoochie Coochie".
- In June 1953, seven months before "Hoochie Coochie Man", Junior Wells recorded Williamson's "Hoodoo Hoodoo" as a Chicago blues single with Elmore James titled "Hoodoo Man Blues" and again in 1965 for his Hoodoo Man Blues album.
- Muddy Waters elaborated, "If such a thing as a mojo had've been good, you'd've had to go down to Louisiana to find one. Where we were, in the Delta, they couldn't do no nothin', I don't think. And there is no way I can shake my finger at you and make you bark like a dog, or make frogs and snakes jump out of you. Bullshit. No way".
- The recording predated the use of metronomic devices, such as a click track, by recording studios.
- The use of "I" is a fluff on Waters' part; Dixon's lyric is "You got a boy child's comin'".
- Palmer 1989, p. 28.
- Wight 1991, p. 40.
- Palmer 1981, p. 166.
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- Palmer 1981, p. 158.
- Palmer 1981, pp. 98–99.
- Gioia 2008, pp. 218–219.
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- Herzhaft 1992, p. 452.
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- Gordon 2002, p. 123.
- Dixon 1989, pp. 84–85.
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- Janovitz, Bill. "Muddy Waters: (I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man – Song Review". AllMusic. Rovi Corp. Retrieved August 16, 2014.
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- Gioia 2008, p. 219–220.
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- Koda, Cub. "Bo Diddley: I'm a Man". AllMusic. Rovi Corp. Retrieved September 3, 2013.
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- Janovitz, Bill. "Muddy Waters: Mannish Boy". AllMusic. Rovi Corp. Retrieved September 3, 2014.
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- "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone (963). December 9, 2004. Retrieved January 10, 2011.
- "The Full National Recording Registry". National Recording Preservation Board. US Library of Congress. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
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