"Spoonful" is a blues standard written by Willie Dixon and first recorded in 1960 by Howlin' Wolf. It is loosely based on "A Spoonful Blues", a song recorded in 1929 by Charley Patton (Paramount 12869), itself related to "All I Want Is A Spoonful" by Papa Charlie Jackson (1925) and "Cocaine Blues" by Luke Jordan (1927). It presents men's sometimes violent search to satisfy their cravings. It uses "a spoonful" mostly as a metaphor to pleasures, which have been interpreted as sex, love or drugs, for different versions of song have varying stresses and allusions. "Spoonful" has been interpreted and recorded by a variety of artists.
Howlin' Wolf versions
"Spoonful" has a one-chord, modal blues structure found in other songs Willie Dixon wrote for Howlin' Wolf, such as "Wang Dang Doodle" and "Back Door Man" as well as in Wolf's own "Smokestack Lightning". Backing Wolf (vocals) are: longtime accompanist Hubert Sumlin (guitar); relative newcomer Freddie Robinson (second guitar); and Chess recording veterans Otis Spann (piano), Fred Below (drums), and Dixon (double-bass). It has been suggested that Freddie King contributed the second guitar on "Spoonful", but both Sumlin and Robinson insist it was Robinson. In 1962, the song was included on Wolf's second compilation album for Chess titled Howlin' Wolf.
In 1968, Wolf reluctantly re-recorded "Spoonful", along with several of his blues classics in Marshall Chess' attempt at updating Wolf's sound for the burgeoning rock market. Unlike his 1971 The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions (Chess LP-60008) where he was backed by several rock stars, including Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, et al., here he was backed by relatively unknown studio session players. The resulting album, The Howlin' Wolf Album (Cadet Concept LPS-319), with its "comically bombastic" arrangements and instrumentation, was a musical and commercial failure. Wolf offered his assessment in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine "Man ... that stuff's dogshit".
The British blues-rock band Cream recorded "Spoonful" for their 1966 UK debut album, Fresh Cream. For the American release of Fresh Cream, "I Feel Free" was substituted for "Spoonful". The song was released in the U.S. later in 1967 as a two-sided single (Atco 45-6522), but edited as Part 1 fades out as the instrumental break starts and Part 2 begins just before the third verse. Cream frequently played it in concert and the song evolved beyond the blues-rock form of the 1966 recording into a vehicle for extended improvised soloing influenced by the sixties San Francisco music scene. One such rendering, recorded at a Winterland concert and included on their 1968 album Wheels of Fire, lasts nearly seventeen minutes.
"Spoonful" has also been recorded by artists such as Etta James on her albums At Last! (1961) and Life, Love & the Blues (1998), The Blues Project on their album Live at The Cafe Au Go Go (1966), Allman Joys from Early Allman (1966, released in 1973), Canned Heat from Vintage (1966, released 1970), Shadows of Knight from Back Door Men (1966), Ten Years After from Ten Years After (1967), songwriter Willie Dixon from I Am the Blues (1970), Johnny Diesel from Short Cool Ones (1996), Chris Whitley from Perfect Day (2000), Uli Jon Roth and Jack Bruce on the DVD Legends of Rock at Castle Donington (2002), and George Thorogood from 2120 South Michigan Ave.. The Grateful Dead included the song in their live repertoire from 1981 through 1994. In 2013, Belgian singer Selah Sue recorded a version of the song for an Häagen-Dazs commercial featuring Bradley Cooper.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame listed Howlin' Wolf's "Spoonful" as one of the "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll". It is also ranked #219 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". In 2010, the song was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame "Classics of Blues Recordings" category.
- ^ Herzhaft 1992, p. 471.
- ^ Segrest 2004, p. 173.
- ^ LaRose, 2006
- ^ Segrest 2004, p. 369.
- ^ a b Segrest 2004, pp. 249-250.
- ^ Eames, Tom (May 7 2013). "Bradley Cooper becomes face of Häagen-Dazs ice cream - video". Digital Spy. Retrieved June 2, 2013.
- ^ "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 1995. Archived from the original on September 11, 2007. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
- ^ "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2004. Archived from the original on June 25, 2008. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
- ^ "Blues Hall of Fame – 2010 Inductees". The Blues Foundation. 2010. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
- Herzhaft, Gerard (1992). Encyclopedia of the Blues. University of Arkansas Press. ISBN 1-55728-252-8.
- LaRose, Joseph A (2006). "Spoonful (A Spoonful Blues)". In Komara, Edward. Encyclopedia of the Blues. Routledge. pp. 923–924. ISBN 978-0-415-92699-7.
- Segrest, James; Hoffman, Mark (2004). Moanin' at Midnight: The Life and Times of Howlin' Wolf. Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-375-42246-3.