Jump to content

Crawling King Snake

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Crawlin' King Snake)
"Crawling King Snake"
Single by Big Joe Williams
B-side"Meet Me Around the Corner"
Released1941 (1941)
RecordedChicago, March 27, 1941

"Crawling King Snake" (alternatively "Crawlin' King Snake" or "Crawling/Crawlin' Kingsnake") is a blues song that has been recorded by numerous blues and other artists. It is believed to have originated as a Delta blues in the 1920s[1] and be related to earlier songs, such as "Black Snake Blues" by Victoria Spivey[2] and "Black Snake Moan" by Blind Lemon Jefferson.[3]

As "Crawling King Snake", it was first recorded by Big Joe Williams on March 27, 1941. The song is a country-style blues, with Williams on vocal and nine-string guitar and William Mitchell providing imitation bass[4] accompaniment. On June 3, 1941, Delta bluesman Tony Hollins recorded "a markedly different version",[5][6] which served as the basis for many subsequent versions.

John Lee Hooker versions


John Lee Hooker began performing "Crawling King Snake" early in his career and included it in his sets after arriving in Detroit, Michigan in the early 1940s.[7] In an interview, Hooker explained that he adapted Tony Hollins' song: "I got that 'Crawling King Snake' from him [Hollins]".[8] Hooker first recorded the song in Detroit on February 18, 1949 for producer Bernard Besman.[9] When it was released by Los Angeles-based Modern Records, "Crawling King Snake" became one of Hooker's most successful singles, reaching number six on the Billboard R&B chart in 1949.[10] Hooker recorded several subsequent versions of the song, including one with Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards for Hooker's 1991 album Mr. Lucky.

Other recordings


"Crawling King Snake" has been recorded by numerous musicians[1] and the song "became a concert staple for dozens of blues-rock bands".[11] In 1971, the Doors recorded a rock adaptation of "Crawling King Snake".[12] Band drummer John Densmore recalled that the group often listened to the song during their early years; vocalist Jim Morrison suggested they record it, which the Doors eventually did for their sixth album, L.A. Woman.[13] For the recording, additional instrumentation was provided by Jerry Scheff on bass and Marc Benno on rhythm guitar.[14]

In April 2021, a version by the Black Keys was released as a single ahead of the release of their tenth studio album Delta Kream.[15] The group's singer and guitarist Dan Auerbach came upon it by way of a recording by Junior Kimbrough. He explained:

This is basically folk music on a certain level, and a lot of this music is like hand-me-downs from generation to generation ... I’m singing lyrics that are like third-generation wrong lyrics. I’m singing a certain version that Junior recorded where maybe he messed up a line, but that’s the only one I know. So we were really just kind of flying by the seat of our pants.[15]


  1. ^ a b Herzhaft, Gerard (1992). "Crawling King Snake". Encyclopedia of the Blues. Fayetteville, Arkansas: University of Arkansas Press. p. 443. ISBN 1-55728-252-8.
  2. ^ OKeh Records 8338 (1926)
  3. ^ OKeh Records 8455 (1926)
  4. ^ Usually a jug or washtub bass.
  5. ^ Young, Alan (1997). Woke Me Up This Morning: Black Gospel Singers and the Gospel Life. University Press of Mississippi. p. 292. ISBN 978-0-87805-944-7.
  6. ^ OKeh Records 06350
  7. ^ Gioia, Ted (2008). Delta Blues (Norton Paperback 2009 ed.). New York City: W. W. Norton. p. 240. ISBN 978-0-393-33750-1.
  8. ^ O'Neal, Jim; van Singel, Amy (2002). The Voice of the Blues: Classic Interviews from Living Blues Magazine. Routledge. p. 208. ISBN 978-0-415-93654-5.
  9. ^ Palmer, Robert (1982). Deep Blues. New York City: Penguin Books. p. 244. ISBN 0-14006-223-8.
  10. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1988). "John Lee Hooker". Top R&B Singles 1942–1988. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research. p. 194. ISBN 0-89820-068-7.
  11. ^ Dicarre, David (1999). Blues Singers: Biographies of 50 Legendary Artists of the Early 20th Century. McFarland & Company. p. 42. ISBN 978-0-7864-0606-7.
  12. ^ Allen, Jim (April 19, 2016). "The Story Behind the Songs of the Doors' Last Hurrah, L.A. Woman". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved April 19, 2021.
  13. ^ Mr. Mojo Risin': The Story of L.A. Woman Q&A and Performance. Event occurs at 17:25. Retrieved April 19, 2021 – via YouTube.
  14. ^ Weidman, Richie (2011). The Doors FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the Kings of Acid Rock. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 162. ISBN 978-1617131141.
  15. ^ a b Strauss, Matthew (15 April 2021). "The Black Keys Blues Covers Album, Share "Crawling Kingsnake": Listen". Pitchfork.