Here’s a clip of Howlin’Wolf performing his 1961 single, “Backdoor Man”, famously covered by the Doors.

Chester Burnett, BKA Howlin’ Wolf performing in 1972 (image: Doug Fulton)

The 1950s and early 60s is widely known as a repressed era, full of images of uniform suburbs, grey-flannel suits, and Father-knows-best morality too. Yet, in the blues world, there were all kinds of contrasting forces that work against this type of generalization. In this world, backdoor men, cuckolded husbands, and married women sneaking around were the main players in these musical love triangles of raw sexuality. This filtered down into rock n’ roll too, of course. But Howlin’ Wolf’s reading of this Willie Dixon-penned tune is downright evil – well, evil in a good way.

In music coming out of urban centers like Chicago, the world is portrayed (and often was) a rough place, with danger and sex (sometimes just dangerous sex…) lurking around every corner, hand in hand with the high possibility of violent death. The braggadocio in the blues in the sexual sense – of backdoor men, hoochie coochie men, king bees buzzin’ around your hive, and other examples – was a firm basis upon which the same kinds of sentiments are now expressed in hip hop.

This song, and others like it, were sort of anti-love songs. This is not about gushy feelings. This is about physicality, carnality, and one-upmanship. Who would have thought that the era which produced Pat Boone, also featured Howlin’ Wolf who would go on to inspire the Rolling Stones (who insisted Wolf join them on their 1965 TV appearance on British program “Ready Steady Go“…), the Doors, Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top, and many others who took the mantle of sexual conquistador in rock music into the decades to come.

To hear more music from Howlin’ Wolf, check out the Howlin’ Wolf MySpace page.


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