Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Little Red Rooster for a Blues Chinese New Year

photo © Mark Butkus 2013
The rooster symbolizes fidelity, punctuality and exorcises evil spirits.

Happy Chinese New Year! To celebrate Chinese New Year how about cooking up some American blues. What's in the wok? A Little Red Rooster of course!

Like most blues standards Little Red Rooster borrows from many similar sounding songs that preceded it and it's true authorship is as mysterious as the blues itself.

Little Red Rooster

I'm a little red rooster,
Too lazy to crow for day
Keep everything in the barnyard,
Upset in every way

Dogs begin to bark now,
And the hounds begin to howl
Watch out stray cat,
The little red rooster's on the prowl

If you see the little red rooster
Won't you please drive him home
Been no peace in the barnyard
Since that little red rooster's been gone

I'm a little red rooster,
Too lazy to crow for day
Keep everything in the barnyard,
Upset in every way


— Willie Dixon


The version of Little Red Rooster listed here is credited to Chicago bluesman Willie Dixon. Though attributed to Dixon in the 1961 version by Howlin' Wolf, friends and family of Howlin' Wolf recall him playing a similar song as early as the 1930s.

Some of the lines in Little Red Rooster appeared in similarly titled songs by Charlie Patton (Banty Rooster Blues 1929) and Memphis Minnie (If You See My Rooster (Please Run Him Home) 1936). In 1950 Margie Day had a Top Five hit with the Griffin Brothers penned Little Red Rooster. A Rolling Stones version of the Dixon tune is the only blues tune to ever reach Number One in England in 1964.