Back Door Man

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"Back Door Man"
Back Door Man single cover.jpg
Single by Howlin' Wolf
A-side"Wang Dang Doodle"
Released1961 (1961)
Format7" 45 rpm record
RecordedChess Studios, Chicago
June 1960
LabelChess (cat. no. 1777)
Songwriter(s)Willie Dixon
Producer(s)Leonard Chess, Phil Chess, Willie Dixon
Howlin' Wolf singles chronology
"Back Door Man"
"Down in the Bottom"

"Back Door Man" is a blues song written by Willie Dixon and recorded by Howlin' Wolf in 1960. It was released in 1961 by Chess Records as the B-side to Wolf's "Wang Dang Doodle" (catalog no. 1777). The song is considered a classic of Chicago blues.


In Southern culture, the phrase "back-door man" refers to a man having an affair with a married woman, using the back door as an exit before the husband comes home.[1] "When everybody trying to sleep, I'm somewhere making my midnight creep / Every morning the rooster crow, something tell me I got to go / I am a back door man," Wolf sings. The promiscuous "back-door man" is a theme of many blues songs, including those by Charley Patton, Lightnin' Hopkins, Blind Willie McTell and Sara Martin: "every sensible woman got a back-door man," Martin wrote in "Strange Loving Blues" (1925).[2] Led Zeppelin referred to the Dixon song in "Whole Lotta Love" (1969) ("Shake for me girl, I want to be your back-door man") and in "Since I've Been Loving You" (1970) ("You must have one of them new fangled back door men!").[3]


The song was recorded in Chicago in June 1960 by Howlin' Wolf (vocals), Otis Spann (piano), Hubert Sumlin and Freddy Robinson (guitars), Willie Dixon (double bass), and Fred Below (drums).[4] The chord progression in the refrain of the song, similar to that found in Bo Diddley's "I'm a Man" (1955), John Lee Hooker's "I'm Mad (Again)" (1957), and Dixon's "Hoochie Coochie Man" (1954), dates back to work songs sung during the construction of train tracks.[5] "Back Door Man" was included on the 1962 Wolf compilation album Howlin' Wolf. He re-recorded the song in November 1968 for The Howlin' Wolf Album.

The Doors version[edit]

"Back Door Man"
Song by The Doors
from the album The Doors
ReleasedJanuary 4, 1967
RecordedAugust 1966
GenrePsychedelic rock, blues rock[6]
Songwriter(s)Willie Dixon
Producer(s)Paul A. Rothchild

The Doors recorded a rock version of the "Back Door Man" for their eponymous debut album. The Doors' drummer John Densmore described it as a song that is "deeply sexual and got everyone moving."[7] The song also appears on the Doors' live album Absolutely Live (1970).

Other versions[edit]

The song has also been recorded by Guy Mitchell, John Hammond(Jr.), Chicken Shack, Blues Project, Shadows of Knight, Bob Weir, Sam Gopal, T-Model Ford, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Soul Asylum (fronted by Iggy Pop, at the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame). Frank Marino, of the band Mahogany Rush, recorded it on Mahogany Rush Live. The song's author, Willie Dixon, recorded it for his 1970 album I Am the Blues. In 1984, "Back Door Man" was also covered by Viktor Lazlo. Eric Burdon performed it during his tour with ex-Doors guitarist Robby Krieger in 1990 and 1991.

The nickname "Back Door Man" was also attached to Dick Cheney when he served as White House Chief of Staff for Gerald Ford. The moniker allegedly refers to Cheney's handling of Congressional negotiations and his aptitude for achieving his aims through often opaque means.[8]


  1. ^ Segrest, James; & Hoffman, Mark (2005). Moanin' at Midnight: The Life and Times of Howlin' Wolf. Thunder's Mouth Press. p. 174. ISBN 1-56025-683-4.
  2. ^ Oliver, Paul (1990). Blues Fell This Morning: Meaning in the Blues. Cambridge University Press. p. 87. ISBN 0-521-37793-5.
  3. ^ "Whole Lotta Love". Rolling Stone. December 9, 2004. Retrieved on February 16, 2008. Archived December 24, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Bill Janovitz. "Back Door Man - Howlin' Wolf | Song Info". AllMusic. Retrieved July 26, 2016.
  5. ^ Scott, Richard J. (2003). Chord Progressions for Songwriters. iUniverse. p. 110. ISBN 0-595-26384-4.
  6. ^ Davis, Stephen (2004). Jim Morrison: Life, Death, Legend. Gotham Books. ISBN 1-59240-064-7.
  7. ^ Densmore, John (1991). Riders on the Storm: My Life with Jim Morrison and the Doors. Dell Publishing. p. 77. ISBN 0-385-30447-1.
  8. ^ Mann, James (2004). Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet. New York, NY: Viking Adult. ISBN 0-670-03299-9.

External links[edit]