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‘Little Red Rooster’: The First Blues Record To Top The UK Singles Chart

Released in 1964, The Rolling Stones’ version of Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Little Red Rooster’ became the first blues record to top the UK singles chart.

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Rolling Stones Little Red Rooster picture sleeve web optimised 820

On Friday, 13 November 1964, The Rolling Stones released their fifth UK single. It would go on to become their second UK No.1 and, less than a month later, on 5 December 1964, become the first blues record to top the UK singles chart.

‘Little Red Rooster’ is a classic from the pen of Willie Dixon, first recorded by Howlin’ Wolf for the Chess in 1961 and also featuring the brilliant Hubert Sumlin playing the classic slide guitar riff.

According to Mick Jagger in November 1964, “People say ‘Little Red Rooster’ is too slow. I don’t see why we should have to conform to any pattern. We thought just for a change, we’d do a nice, straight blues on a single. What’s wrong with that? It’s suitable for dancing. It just depends who you’re dancing with. Charlie’s drumming makes it good for dancing” If you play Wolf’s original and The Stones’ version back to back; they’re like a mirror; the Wolf howls, while Mick purrs; but ultimately both are what the Blues are about…S.E.X.

The Stones recorded their version on 2 September 1964 at Regent Sound Studios in London, along with the single’s b-side, ‘Off The Hook’. Three days later the Stones began their 4th UK package tour, this one featuring the brother and sister soul duo, Inez and Charlie Foxx who had a top 10 American hit the year before with ‘Mockingbird’. In between their UK tour and the release of ‘Little Red Rooster’, the Stones embarked upon their second American tour, arriving back in the UK a few days after the single’s release.

‘Little Red Rooster’ spent just a week at No.1 in the UK in December, it might have done better had not the Stones been embroiled in an argument with the BBC who refused to have them appear on Top of The Pops the week it made No.1. In America, London Records passed on releasing Rooster, which displeased the band. With its blatant sexual undertones London may have felt there was every chance that American radio would ban it.

At the time of its release the New Musical Express said, “If it wasn’t the Stones, I wouldn’t give it much hope, because it’s not all that commercial, but advance orders already guarantee a massive hit.” It became the first blues record to top the charts in Britain, and still one of just a handful.

Follow the The Rolling Stones: Love The Blues playlist for more essential Stones blues covers.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Goldie

    June 24, 2014 at 10:09 am

    Great number by the Stones…played the song at a Rock Band competition in the early sixties with a group called “Plebs”..not popular at all with judges and audience….obviously MORONS!!
    we came last of eighteen groups…Band in 1965 were Benny(late)Lead guitar, vocals, Phil, bass, vocals, Viv, drums, George,guitar, Ivan, guitar and Goldie, vocals and Harp…
    Imagine Pat Boone attempting this song!!!!!!!!

    • uDiscover

      June 24, 2014 at 1:46 pm

      Goldie we’re using our imagination!

  2. David Hislop

    June 24, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    It’s always been one of my favourite Stones song.

    • peter andrews

      November 20, 2016 at 9:16 pm

      I still like the rolling stones,and little red rooster,as I still have a 45rpm record of this song,and many others unscatched,i have a big record collection of 45s and lps kind regards and keep rolling along/

  3. BIG DADDY

    November 20, 2016 at 10:13 am

    HANDS DOWN, THE GREATEST BAND OF ALL TIME.. YOU CAN NOT COMPARE ANY GROUP TO THE STONES. STONE4LIFE

    • Lisa

      December 6, 2016 at 3:28 am

      The Beatles?

  4. Diane Kenyon

    November 20, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    The first record I ever pre-ordered. Still love listening to all the Stones early songs and dancing along to them even though I’m 67!

    • Ritabug

      November 20, 2016 at 8:21 pm

      I hear ya Diane Kenyon! I will turn 67 Christmas eve this year. All my pre-teen girlfriends were “Oh the Beatles” – not me. When I heard the Stones, they were & still are one of my fav bands. I also love blues music too. So here’s to us older (somewhat) rockers. Peace & good will for you & yours!

  5. Robert Manne

    November 20, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    I have been a life-long Stones fan and have many favorites but was only recently re-introduced to the early blues period of the band that somehow got lost along the way. Just awesome stuff of which “Little Red Rooster” is but one of several really classic songs. Now on my guitar I try to emulate THEM. We truly have come “Around and Around.”

  6. Preston Case

    December 2, 2016 at 1:07 am

    World’s greatest rock band, that’s all. Love the Stones.

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