Hound Dog Taylor famously said of himself: "When I die, they'll say, 'He couldn't play shit, but he sure made it sound good!'"
Let's get directly to it, Hound Dog Taylor is the man. The first time I heard him was like having a live wire jammed in my ear. A serious jolt of absolutely raw, rocking blues. His trio, Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers, released two LPs on Alligator records and a third record was released just after his death in 1975. You want to rock? Pick up a copy of their second album, Natural Boogie, and you will, thusly and most assuredly, be rocking. You want to rock some more? Get the other two.
Alligator Records is now, and has been for some time, America's premier independent blues record label. It's very formation occurred for one reason and that reason was to make a Hound Dog Taylor record and you can thank one Bruce Iglauer for his youthful passions and largess. "I saw him in a band with Brewer Philips on second guitar and Ted Harvey on drums, with their equipment on the floor, no bandstand—they moved a table out of the bar. They played for three hours straight. People were dancing in the aisles and on the seats... lots of people were really drunk and they were shooting dice outside and the energy level was fantastic. Everybody knew Hound Dog and the music was totally raw and absolutely infectious."
If you'd like to find out a bit more about Mr. Taylor, I will gladly direct you to this fine interview with Iglauer, wherein you may glean some wild information straight from the horse's mouth. For example, when asked how Taylor was as a bandleader, Iglauer replies, "Whenever they had a show, they didn't rehearse. That was sort of a rule. They followed that rule very closely. They also followed the rule that you REALLY shouldn't perform unless you had a reasonable amount of alcohol. He set an example for that. In that regard, he was sort of an exemplary bandleader. He had a huge grin, he was constantly happy and he'd laugh and joke with the audience. He would put on a show stomping his feet, sitting down. He'd screw up his face, swing his guitar around and he'd just be having a wonderful time."
This "raw and infectious" energy is readily apparent when you hear the Hound. An electric blues trio consisting of two guitars and drums that featured Hound Dog's searing slide guitar leads over Brewer Philips and Ted Harvey's solid rhythm section. Then, they would switch, Hound Dog lays down the bass parts and Brewer Philips goes crazy on the lead guitar. About as far from a slickified, over-produced, polished turd of a blues band as you can imagine, Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers wanted nothing more than to rock and rock they did. We are lucky to have the proof.
More observations from Iglauer:
Hound Dog's one of those guys who would say 'you listen to the blues to get rid of the blues.' I think he left a lot of getting rid of the blues. His music was to make people happy. Since his music still makes people happy, I think it succeeds brilliantly. Hound Dog's music is so unpretentious, so direct, so emotional, so much fun, it's like eating a great steak or having a great glass of beer or wonderful sex or anything that's a direct, enjoyable, non-intellectual experience. That's what Hound Dog's music is supposed to be. You're not supposed to think while you listen to it. He certainly didn't spend a lot of time thinking while he performed it. He just did it. It just came naturally from his soul, through his fingers and his voice and out.
The clip presented this week a bit rough. The audio is steady throughout but the video will lock up and freeze for a bit here and there. For some reason the last song of the set is presented first and then you get the rest of the set - somewhere in there they play "Sadie," a favorite track of mine. Turn it up and rock out!