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For other uses, see Spoonful (disambiguation).
Spoonful single cover.jpg
Single by Howlin' Wolf
B-side "Howlin' for My Darling"
Released 1960 (1960)
Format 7-inch 45 rpm
Recorded June 1960
Studio Chess, Chicago
Genre Blues
Length 2:45
Label Chess (no. 1762)
Writer(s) Willie Dixon
Producer(s) Leonard Chess, Phil Chess, Willie Dixon
Howlin' Wolf singles chronology
"I've Been Abused"
"Back Door Man"

"Spoonful" is a blues song written by Willie Dixon and first recorded in 1960 by Howlin' Wolf. Called "a stark and haunting work",[1] it is one of Dixon's best known and most interpreted songs. Etta James had a pop and R&B record chart hit with "Spoonful" in 1961, and it was popularized in the late 1960s by the British rock group Cream.

Background and lyrics[edit]

Dixon's "Spoonful" is loosely based on "A Spoonful Blues", a song recorded in 1929 by Charley Patton (Paramount 12869),[2] which is related to "All I Want Is a Spoonful" by Papa Charlie Jackson (1925) and "Cocaine Blues" by Luke Jordan (1927). The lyrics relate men's sometimes violent search to satisfy their cravings, with "a spoonful" used mostly as a metaphor for pleasures, which have been interpreted as sex, love, women and men naked and drugs.[3]

It could be a spoonful of coffee, it could be a spoonful of tea
But one little spoon of your precious love, is good enough for me
Men lies about that spoonful, some of them dies about that spoonful
Some of them cries about that spoonful, but everybody fight about that spoonful

Composition and recording[edit]

"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", and in Wolf's own "Smokestack Lightning". It uses eight-bar vocal sections with twelve-bar choruses and is performed at a medium blues tempo in the key of E.[4] Music critic Bill Janovitz describes it as "brutal, powerful Wolf bellowing in his raspy style. There are few recordings that equal the powerful force of 'Spoonful,' or, for that matter, any other Wolf/Dixon Chess side."[1]

Backing Wolf on vocals are longtime accompanist Hubert Sumlin on guitar, relative newcomer Freddie Robinson on second guitar, and Chess recording veterans Otis Spann on piano, Fred Below on drums, and Dixon on double-bass. It has been suggested that Freddie King contributed the second guitar on "Spoonful", but both Sumlin and Robinson insist it was Robinson.[5] In 1962, the song was included on Wolf's second compilation album for Chess, Howlin' Wolf.

In 1968, Wolf reluctantly re-recorded "Spoonful", along with several of his blues classics in Marshall Chess's attempt at updating Wolf's sound for the burgeoning rock market. Unlike his 1971 The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions (Chess LP-60008), on which he was backed by several rock stars, including Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Bill Wyman, and Charlie Watts, here he was backed by relatively unknown studio session players. The resulting album, The Howlin' Wolf Album, with its "comically bombastic" arrangements and instrumentation, was a musical and commercial failure.[6] Wolf offered his assessment in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine: "Man ... that stuff's dogshit".[7]

Cream renditions[edit]

Single by Cream
from the album Fresh Cream (UK edition)
A-side "Spoonful, Part 1"
B-side "Spoonful, Part 2"
Released September 1967 (1967-09) (US)
Format 7-inch 45 rpm
Recorded September 1966
Studio Mayfair Sound, London
Genre Blues rock, hard rock
  • 2:25 – Part 1
  • 2:28 – Part 2
Label Atco
Writer(s) Willie Dixon
Producer(s) Robert Stigwood
American singles chronology
"Strange Brew"
"Sunshine of Your Love"

The British rock group 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 US later in 1967 as a two-sided single (Atco 45-6522), but edited so that Part 1 fades out as the instrumental break starts and Part 2 begins just before the third verse. The unedited studio version made its US album debut on the Best of Cream compilation in 1969.

Cream frequently played "Spoonful" 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 San Francisco music scene of the late 1960s. One such rendering, recorded at a Winterland concert and included on their 1968 album Wheels of Fire, lasts nearly seventeen minutes.


The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame listed Howlin' Wolf's "Spoonful" as one of the "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll".[8] It is ranked number 219 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[9] In 2010, the song was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame "Classics of Blues Recordings" category.[10] It noted that "Otis Rush has stated that Dixon presented 'Spoonful' to him, but the song didn't suit Rush's tastes and so it ended up with Wolf, and soon thereafter with Etta James".[10]



  1. ^ a b Janovitz, Bill. "Howin' Wolf: Spoonful – Song Review". AllMusic. Retrieved July 31, 2013. 
  2. ^ Segrest 2004, p. 173.
  3. ^ LaRose 2006, pp. 923–924.
  4. ^ Hal Leonard 1995, pp. 190–191.
  5. ^ Segrest 2004, p. 369.
  6. ^ Segrest 2004, pp. 249–250.
  7. ^ Segrest 2004, p. 249.
  8. ^ "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 1995. Archived from the original on 2007. Retrieved March 4, 2011. 
  9. ^ Rolling Stone (December 9, 2004). "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone (963). Retrieved July 31, 2013. 
  10. ^ a b Blues Foundation (November 10, 2016). "2010 Hall of Fame Inductees: Spoonful – Howlin' Wolf (Chess, 1960)". The Blues Foundation. Retrieved February 7, 2017. 


External links[edit]