|"Wang Dang Doodle"|
|Single by Howlin' Wolf|
|B-side||"Back Door Man"|
|Format||45 rpm record|
|Howlin' Wolf singles chronology|
"Wang Dang Doodle" is a blues song written by Willie Dixon. Music critic Mike Rowe calls it a party song in an urban style with its massive, rolling, exciting beat. It was first recorded by Howlin' Wolf in 1960 and released by Chess Records in 1961. In 1965, Dixon and Leonard Chess persuaded Koko Taylor to record it for Checker Records, a Chess subsidiary. Taylor's rendition quickly became a hit, reaching number thirteen on the Billboard R&B chart and number 58 on the pop chart. "Wang Dang Doodle" became a blues standard and has been recorded by various artists.
Composition and lyrics
"Wang Dang Doodle" was composed by Willie Dixon during the second part of his songwriting career, from 1959 to 1964. During this period, he wrote many of his best-known songs, including "Back Door Man", "Spoonful", "The Red Rooster" (better-known as "Little Red Rooster"), "I Ain't Superstitious", "You Shook Me", "You Need Love" (adapted by Led Zeppelin for "Whole Lotta Love"), and "You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover". In his autobiography, Dixon explained that the phrase "wang dang doodle" "meant a good time, especially if the guy came in from the South. A wang dang meant having a ball and a lot of dancing, they called it a rocking style so that's what it meant to wang dang doodle". Mike Rowe claimed that Dixon's song is based on "an old lesbian song" – "The Bull Daggers Ball" – with "its catalogue of low-life characters only marginally less colurful that the original". Dixon claimed that he wrote it when he first heard Howlin' Wolf in 1951 or 1952 but that it was "too far in advance" for him and he saved it for later. However, Wolf supposedly hated the song and commented, "Man, that's too old-timey, sound[s] like some old levee camp number":
Tell Automatic slim, to tell razor totin' Jim
To tell butcher knife totin' Annie, to tell fast talkin' Fannie ...
We gonna pitch a wang dang doodle all night long
Howlin' Wolf recorded the song in June 1960 in Chicago during the same sessions that produced "Back Door Man" and "Spoonful". Backing Howlin' Wolf on vocals are Otis Spann on piano, Hubert Sumlin on guitar, Dixon on bass, and Fred Below on drums. Freddy King has been identified as possibly a second guitarist. In 1961, Chess issued the song as the B-side to "Back Door Man"; neither song appeared on the record charts. Both songs are included on Howlin' Wolf's popular 1962 compilation album Howlin' Wolf, also called The Rockin' Chair Album, and many subsequent compilations.
Koko Taylor rendition
On June 30, 1964, Willie Dixon brought Koko Taylor to Chess Records, where she recorded "What Kind of Man Is That?". During her next session, on December 7, 1965, she recorded "Wang Dang Doodle". Backing Koko Taylor on vocals were Gene Barge and Donald Hawkins on saxophones, Lafayette Leake on piano, Buddy Guy and Johnny "Twist" Williams on guitars, Jack Meyers on bass guitar, Fred Below on drums, and Willie Dixon singing with Taylor. Her version was released in early 1966 and peaked at number four on Billboard magazine's R&B singles chart and number 58 on the Hot 100.
Recognition and legacy
In 1995, Taylor's rendition was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in the "Classics of Blues Recording – Singles or Album Tracks" category. The Foundation noted that the song was the last blues single produced by Dixon to reach the record charts, and "became Koko Taylor's signature crowdpleaser, inspiring singalongs to the 'all night long' refrain night after night."
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Several artists have interpreted the song:
- Love Sculpture included a revved-up version on their 1968 album Blues Helping. Guitarist Dave Edmunds and the group had been performing the song live since 1966
- Savoy Brown covered "Wang Dang Doodle" on their 1971 album Street Corner Talking
- The Pointer Sisters' version of "Wang Dang Doodle" was released as the follow-up single to "Yes We Can Can" and was also released on their self-titled debut album. The single peaked at number 24 on the R&B singles chart and number 61 on the Hot 100.
- The song is heard throughout the opening scene of the 1991 film Rush, during which the opening credits are displayed. The song is being performed inside of a bar by the house band — actually Charlie Terrell and his band The Murdered Johns, who are performing their rendition of the song. The song does not appear on the release of the film's original soundtrack.
- On February 13, 2011, "Wang Dang Doodle" was performed at the pre-broadcast ceremonies of the 53rd Grammy Awards by vocalists Cyndi Lauper, Maria Muldaur, Mavis Staples and Betty Wright; the performance also featured guitarists Buddy Guy and Kenny Wayne Shepherd
- The town of Forest, Mississippi, home to several poultry processing plants, hosts the annual "Wing Dang Doodle Festival", which features blues music performances and other events, such as a Buffalo wing cook-off and the "Wing Dang Dash", a five-kilometer run-walk
- The Grateful Dead began performing this song live on August 26, 1983, and played it 94 more times, up through their last stand of concerts in Chicago in 1995
- Hindu Love Gods recorded it for their self-titled album
- Z.Z. Hill covered "Wang Dang Doodle" for his 1982 Malaco album The Rhythm and The Blues
- PJ Harvey performed a compelling version during numerous live performances in the 1990s, including on several TV shows such as Letterman and Jools Holland
- Rowe 1973, pp. 170–173.
- Whitburn 1988, p. 404.
- Herzhaft 1992, p. 477.
- Dixon 1989, p. 143.
- Rowe 1973, p. 172.
- Dixon 1989, p. 149.
- Dixon 1989, p. 88.
- Dixon 1989, p. 120.
- Shurman 1989, p. 29.
- Surman 1991, p. 29.
- Shurman 1991, p. 29.
- Whitburn 1988, p. 198.
- Shurman 1991, p. 27.
- "The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions – Review". AllMusic.
- Chess Blues 1947–1967 (CD notes). Various artists. MCA Records/Chess Records. 1992. CHD4-9340.CS1 maint: others (link)
- Blues Foundation (November 10, 2016). "1995 Hall of Fame Inductees: Wang Dang Doodle – Koko Taylor (Checker, 1965)". The Blues Foundation. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
- John Dougan. "Blues Helping - Love Sculpture | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved July 10, 2015.
- "The Pointer Sisters - Billboard Singles". AllMusic. Retrieved January 7, 2011.
- Dixon, Willie; Snowden, Don (1989). I Am the Blues. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80415-8.
- Herzhaft, Gerard (1992). "Wand Dang Doodle". Encyclopedia of the Blues. Fayetteville, Arkansas: University of Arkansas Press. p. 477. ISBN 1-55728-252-8.
- Rowe, Mike (1973). Chicago Blues. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80145-0.
- Shurman, Dick (1991). Howlin' Wolf: The Chess Box (Box set booklet). Howlin' Wolf. Chess/MCA Records. CHD3-9332.
- Whitburn, Joel (1988). Top R&B Singles 1942–1988. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research. ISBN 0-89820-068-7.