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Little Red Rooster


The Rolling Stones

Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This is a Blues standard written by Wille Dixon. The Stones first heard it from Howlin' Wolf and Sam Cooke.
While playing in Chicago, The Stones sent a car to pick up Howlin' Wolf when they found out he had not been invited to the show. The spotlight operator shined a light on him when he arrived, and the crowd went wild.
The Stones' manager, Andrew Oldham, wanted them to record this in order to keep their image as a tough, naughty band, essentially the opposite of The Beatles. Their previous singles in England were "It's All Over Now," "Not Fade Away," and "I Wanna Be Your Man," all of which were successful, but moved them away from The Blues and into a more pop direction. Recording this raw Blues number was for their reputation.
Their record label, Decca Records, felt this was not commercial enough to release as a single, but it went to #1 in England because the Stones were so hot at the time. Advance orders for the single ensured that it would be a hit.
When this was released in the US, radio stations banned it for sexual content. They quickly released the more radio-friendly "Heart Of Stone" to replace it.
Brian Jones played the slide guitar. He died in 1969 after years of drug abuse.
Their album Flashpoint contains a live version with Eric Clapton on slide guitar. It was taken from a 1989 show in Shea Stadium, New York.
Sam Cooke released this as a single in 1963 with Ray Charles on Piano and Billy Preston playing organ. Their version hit #11 in the US.
Keith Richards explained on the BBC 4 documentary Blues Britannia: Can Blue Men Sing the Whites? why the Stones decided to release this as a single: "We must have been wearing brass balls that day, when we decided to put that out as a single. I think we just thought it was our job to pay back, to give them what they've given us. They've given us the music and the friendship, and let's stand up, be men, and give them a blues, and it went to #1. Mr. Howlin' Wolf, he didn't mind at all. It was maybe a moment of bravado, in retrospect, but it worked. We have been blessed by the music that we listened to, and let's see if we can actually spin it back around and make American white kids listen to Little Red Rooster. You had it all the time, pal, you know. You just didn't listen."
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Comments (15):

BRIAN JONES one of the best slide guitarist of all time
- Ken, Booneville,MS, MS
In my opinion this is better than the more upbeat Howlin wolf version! Then again he wasnt a Rolling Stone..
- Leelee, stockton, CA
If Little Red Rooster was already a hit for Sam Cooke, why would the Stones' version be banned? Plus, it was never released as a single in US.
- Dee Jay, Santa Monica, CA
I first heard little Red rooster in 1966. An aunt of mine in Scotland sent me all of the Stones new singles as they came out (she worked in a record store). When this arrived, I had never heard of it, or Willie Dixon, but it quickly became one of my favourites. Quite often I would play it for friends who had never heard of it or known that the Stones had recorded it. Great blues tune, well done by Mick and the boys.
- Adam, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Back in 1964 when this song was released, Terry Knight was a DJ at radio station CKLW in Windsor, Canada (just across the river from Detroit.) CKLW was a top 40 station at the time but Knight was so impressed with this song that he played it continuously throughout the night on his show. Knight later when on to form his own group, Terry Knight and the Pack that had some regional hits and later put together and managed the Grand Funk Railroad.
- Bob, Southfield, MI
I'm not a big fan of blues but I love Chuck Berry
and I love Mick's harmonia playing in this song
- ashley, Quincy, IL
Unlike Led Zeppelin, the Stones looked after their mentors and influences. They have always had black artists as support acts, whether it be Ike & Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Robert Cray -even the Black eyed peas!
- Craig, melbourne, Australia
Great "reprise" that give credits to the amerian bluesman.
At the time they have nothing to eat; and the fact that the Stones recorded their songs bring them royalties and money. And the Stones never missed an occasion to plug those guys in British shows or tours.
Even Chuck Berry admitted that the Stones help him to pay his Cadillacs ....
- R, Montreal, QC, Canada
I think this was in steel wheels
- Dylan, Branson, MO
40 years after its release, the Stones referenced this song in the first verse of "Rough Justice".
- Joshua, Twin Cities, MN
i thought that Brian Jones died in a mysterious accident where he was found dead in a swimming pool... whatever.
- erin, plymouth, MA
It's not actually about chickens! The rooster is a euphemism or metaphor for the male libido/member. This was a device used by many blues artists to communicate sensual and erotic content to 'blues people', e.g. '...mule kicking in your stall...' = coital sex (Tada!)
- Kieran, Birmingham, England
I can only guess this song was banned based on the implied meaning of Little Red Rooster refering to part of the male anatomy. I really don't know, good tune though
- Nathan, Defiance, OH
i'll bet the song was awesome on slide guitar!
- Stefanie magura, Rock Hill, SC
why was this song banned? i dont see anything sexual about it
- Jack, St. Paul, MN
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