Little Red Rooster

Album: The Rolling Stones Now! (1965)
Charted: 1
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  • This is a blues standard written by Willie Dixon and first recorded by Howlin' Wolf in 1961 as "The Red Rooster." The Stones, who recorded a lot of blues covers in their early years, first heard it from Howlin' Wolf and Sam Cooke. Released as a single in the UK, it was their second #1 hit in that territory, following "It's All Over Now."
  • Brian Jones played the slide guitar on this track. A founding member of the band, he was their lead guitarist until drug problems and conflict with his bandmates forced him out of the group in 1969 just weeks before he was found dead in his swimming pool. Danny Garcia, director of the documentary Rolling Stone: Life and Death of Brian Jones, cites his work on "Little Red Rooster" as one of his key contributions. "Brian was a pioneer of the slide guitar in the UK," Garcia told Songfacts. "His goal was to help spread the blues in the UK and then in the rest of the world, something he accomplished early on."
  • 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 the UK 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.
  • You would think an American blues song about a rooster on the prowl wouldn't have much hit potential in the UK, but the Stones camp convinced their label, Decca Records, that it did, and remarkably, it went to #1. The band may have gotten the same results recording "Mary Had A Little Lamb"; they were red hot in the UK at the time, so advance orders for the single ensured it would be a hit. Reflecting on the single reaching #1, Mick Jagger said in 2016: "It's crackers. You know, it's crazy. I mean, that was a weirdo thing, 'cause we could've done anything at that time and it would've been #1. That was the point." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • This wasn't issued as a single in the US, where the Rolling Stones were just starting to make their mark. The more radio-friendly "Heart Of Stone" was issued there instead.
  • Rolling Stones bass player Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts recorded this with Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton and Howlin' Wolf in 1970 for Wolf's album The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions, which was released the following year. Outtakes from the session were included on the 1991 compilation Howlin' Wolf: The Chess Box.
  • The Stones' 1991 live album Flashpoint contains a version with Eric Clapton on slide guitar taken from a 1989 show in Shea Stadium, New York.
  • Sam Cooke released this as a single in 1963 with Billy Preston on organ mimicking the bark of the dogs and the howl of the hounds. Cooke's version, which was the first to be titled "Little Red Rooster," hit #11 in the US and went to #2 on the R&B chart.

    Other artists to cover this song include Big Mama Thornton, Carla Thomas, José Feliciano, Otis Rush, Bo Diddley and Etta James. The Grateful Dead and their offshoots sometimes covered it in concert.
  • 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."
  • Mick Jagger defended this song in 1964: "I don't see why we should have to conform to any pattern. After all, wasn't 'Not Fade Away' different from 'It's All Over Now'? We try to make all our singles different, and so far every one has been in a different tempo. This time, I didn't want to do a fast beat number. If the fans don't like it, then they don't like it. I like it. It's a straight blues and nobody's ever done that. Except on albums. We thought just for a change we'd do a nice, straight blues on a single. What's wrong with that?... Course (it's) suitable for dancing. Charlie's drumming makes it good for dancing - you can double up the beat for dancing, I reckon."
  • This was engineered by Bill Farley, who engineered the Stones' debut album in London in 1964. When they did more work in London on their return from the States throughout 1964, he was also the engineer (songs like "Congratulations," "Grown Up Wrong," "Under The Boardwalk"). He also engineered some Andrew Oldham Orchestra sessions that year. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France, for above 2
  • The Rolling Stones gave credit to Howlin' Wolf whenever possible and did what they could to introduce him to an American audience. When they debuted "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" on the ABC show Shindig! in 1965, they made sure Wolf was also on the program, performing his song "How Many More Years." Before Wolf's performance, The Stones chatted with the host to explain that he was the first to record "Little Red Rooster" and was one of their biggest influences.

Comments: 18

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn this day in 1963 {December 8th} "Little Red Rooster" by Sam Cooke peaked at #11 on Billboard's Top 100 chart, thus just missing making the Top 10 chart...
    "Little Red Rooster" was the first of three consecutive records by Sam Cooke to peak at #11 and all three spent ten weeks each on the Top 100, the other two records that peaked at #11 were "Good News" and "Good Time"...
    Between 1957 and 1966 the Clarksdale, Mississippi native had forty-three records on the Top 100 chart, five made the Top 10 with one reaching #1*, "You Send Me", for three weeks in 1957...
    Sadly, Samuel Cooke passed away at the young age of 33 on December 11th, 1964...
    May he R.I.P.
    * He just missed having a second #1 record when his "Chain Gang" peaked at #2 {for 2 weeks} in 1960, the two records that kept it out of the top spot were "My Heart Has A Mind of Its Own" by Connie Francis and "Mr. Custer" by Larry Verne...
    And from the 'For What It's Worth' department, the ten records that kept it out of the Top 10 were:
    At #1. "Dominique" by The Singing Nun
    #2. "Louie Louie" by The Kingsmen
    #3. "Everybody" by Tommy Roe
    #4. "I'm Leaving It Uo To You" by Dale and Grace
    #5. "You Don't Have To Be A Baby To Cry" by the Caravelles
    #6. "Since I Fell For You" by Lenny Welch
    #7. "Be True To Your School" by the Beach Boys
    #8. "Drip Drop" by Dion DiMucci
    #9. "There! I've Said It Again" by Bobby Vinton
    #10. "Walking The Dog" by Rufus Thomas
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn January 21st 1965, the Rolling Stones and Roy Orbison arrived at the Sydney Airport*, it was the beginning of a 16-date tour of Australian and New Zealand...
    At the time the Stones had two records on the Kent Music Report chart; at #4 was "The Little Red Rooster, while at #16 was "Time Is On My Side" (the week before "The Little Red Rooster" had peaked at #2 for one week}...
    Just less than two months later on March 6th Roy Orbison's "Goodnight" reached #6 {for 3 non-consecutive weeks} on the Australian chart...
    * An estimated 3,000 screaming fans greeted the Stones & the Big 'O' at the airport.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn May 2nd 1965, the Rolling Stones performed "Little Red Rooster" on the CBS-TV program 'The Ed Sullivan Show'...
    As already stated it never charted in the U.S.A.; but on December 5th, 1964 it peaked at #1 (for 1 week) on the United Kingdom's Singles chart...
    On December 8th, 1963 Sam Cooke's covered version reached #11 (for 1 week) on the Top 100; Mr. Cooke's next two releases, "Good News" and "Good Times", also peaked at #11...
    R.I.P. Mr. Sullivan (1901 - 1974), Mr. Cooke (1931 - 1964), and Brian Jones (1942 - 1969).
  • Ken from Booneville,ms, MsBRIAN JONES one of the best slide guitarist of all time
  • Leelee from Stockton, CaIn my opinion this is better than the more upbeat Howlin wolf version! Then again he wasnt a Rolling Stone..
  • Dee Jay from Santa Monica, CaIf 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.
  • Adam from Glasgow, United KingdomI 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.
  • Bob from Southfield, MiBack 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.
  • Ashley from Quincy, IlI'm not a big fan of blues but I love Chuck Berry
    and I love Mick's harmonia playing in this song
  • Craig from Melbourne, AustraliaUnlike 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!
  • R from Montreal, Qc, CanadaGreat "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 ....
  • Dylan from Branson, MoI think this was in steel wheels
  • Joshua from Twin Cities, Mn40 years after its release, the Stones referenced this song in the first verse of "Rough Justice".
  • Erin from Plymouth, Mai thought that Brian Jones died in a mysterious accident where he was found dead in a swimming pool... whatever.
  • Kieran from Birmingham, EnglandIt'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!)
  • Nathan from Defiance, OhI 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
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, Sci'll bet the song was awesome on slide guitar!
  • Jack from St. Paul, Mnwhy was this song banned? i dont see anything sexual about it
see more comments

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