The great Willie Dixon is rightly revered for the hundreds of vintage blues songs he wrote, his countless productions for others and his many appearances as a guest musician. While he was signed by Chess Records as an artist in his own right, his breathless schedule as a composer, producer and sideman restricted his own recording activity somewhat. ‘Little Red Rooster,’ ‘Hoochie Coochie Man,’ ‘Spoonful,’ ‘I Just Want To Make Love To You and and so many more from his songbook bear testament to his indelible influence.
But in the early autumn of 1955, the future Rock and Roll Hall of Famer was enjoying his only US singles success in his own name. Ironically, it was with a song he didn’t write himself. ‘Walking The Blues’ was a delightful mid-tempo blues composed by Champion Jack Dupree and Teddy McRae. Dupree, the New Orleans blues figurehead, had his own version of the song out just ahead of Dixon’s, and a chart battle commenced in which both artists were successful.
Dupree’s ‘Walking The Blues,’ released on King, was credited to Jack Dupree and Mr. Bear, the recording identity of his co-writer and featured pianist McRae. It entered Billboard’s Best Sellers In Stores and Most Played By Jockeys R&B listings on 20 August 1955 and reached No. 6 in an 11-week run.
As you can hear, Dixon replicated the walking-tempo beat, spoken vocal and piano features of the original, the latter played on his rendition by Lafayette Leake. Willie’s Checker 45 made its debut during Dupree’s chart run, on another of Billboard’s R&B listings, Most Played In Juke Boxes, on 10 September.
On 1 October, Dixon’s rendition showed for the first time on Most Played By Jockeys. It too reached a No. 6 peak, but with a shorter, four-week stay. But both takes on ‘Walking The Blues’ were among the most enjoyable blues entries of 1955.
‘Walking The Blues’ is on Willie Dixon’s The Chess Box, which can be bought here.
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