Driving Wheel

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Not to be confused with the Foghat or T-Bone Burnett songs.
"Driving Wheel Blues"
Driving Wheel Blues single cover.jpg
Single by Roosevelt Sykes aka The Honey Dripper
B-side "Barrel House Man"
Released 1936 (1936)
Format 10-inch 78 rpm record
Recorded February 18, 1936
Genre Blues
Length 3:06
Label Decca (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 and has been recorded by numerous artists, including Junior Parker and Al Green, who had US Billboard 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 (2×)
I give her everything she needs, I am her driving wheel

Sykes' recorded the song on February 18, 1936 for Decca Records.[1] It was released before Billboard magazine or a similar service began tracking such singles, but "Driving Wheel" became an early blues standard.[1] He later recorded additional studio and live versions of the song.[2]

Junior Parker/Al Green versions[edit]

Junior Parker, as "Little Junior Parker", recorded "Driving Wheel" for Duke Records in 1960 or 1961.[3] 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 US Billboard R&B chart, where it reached number five; it also reached number 85 in the pop chart.[4]

In 1971, soul/gospel singer Al Green recorded the song in Memphis for Hi Records.[4] His song peaked at number 46 in the R&B chart and reached number 115 on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles pop chart.[4] The song is included on the 1971 Al Green Gets Next to You album[5] as well as various compilation albums. Green's version uses a different arrangement, in keeping with his soul music approach.[5]

Recordings by other artists[edit]

"Driving Wheel" has been recorded by a variety of artists,[6] including B.B. King (1961 from his My Kind of Blues album, and in 2005 with Glenn Frey on B.B. King & Friends: 80); 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. The band, Driving Wheel, featuring former Shaman's Harvest members Ryan Tomlinson and Craig Wingate, was named after the song.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Herzhaft, Gerard (1992). "Drivin' Wheel". Encyclopedia of the Blues. University of Arkansas Press. p. 445. ISBN 1-55728-252-8. 
  2. ^ "Roosevelt Sykes: Drivin' Wheel – Appears on". AllMusic. Rovi Corp. Retrieved January 8, 2016. 
  3. ^ Vera, Billy (1992). Junior's Blues – The Duke Recordings Volume One (Album notes). Junior Parker. MCA/Duke Records. p. 5. MCAD-10669. 
  4. ^ a b c Whitburn, Joel (1988). Top R&B Singles 1942–1988. Record Research, Inc. pp. 174, 319. ISBN 0-89820-068-7. 
  5. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Al Green: Gets Next to You – Album review". AllMusic. Rovi Corp. Retrieved January 8, 2016. 
  6. ^ "Song search results for Driving Wheel". AllMusic. Rovi Corp. Retrieved January 8, 2016.