Songlines: ‘Woke Up This Morning (My Baby She Was Gone)’ / ‘Rollin’ Man’ – Part 2￼
I am not sure how the song first crossed the Atlantic, but the first to cover it in England (to the best of knowledge) was Alexis Korner and Blues Incorporated on the “Red Hot From Alex” LP in 1964
Based on Herbie Goins’ vocal and the comparatively more conservative tempo used, it would appear that this version was based on Arthur Prysock’s 1955 cover of the song, not B.B. King’s original recording.
Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated
Herbie Goins: vocal / Alexis Korner: guitar /
Danny Thompson: bass / Barry Howten: drums /
Ron Edgeworth: piano
Dave Castle: alto saxophone / Art Themen: tenor saxophone
Red Hot From Alex (Transatlantic 1964)
Woke Up This Morning – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9m9ZQyKuHk
Goins was a big voiced blues shouter in the style of Big Joe Turner, and powers the number, but Dave Castle’s alto does not have the same impact as Wilbert “Red” Prysock’s tenor on the earlier recording.
More damaging is the poor recording, which buries Ron Edgeworth’s piano and Korner’s guitar deep in the mix during the break and the choruses, forcing the listener to strain to hear their contributions.
Back in the States, B.B. King performed the number during a show at the Regal Theater in Chicago in November of 1964.
Released on the seminal “Live at the Regal” in 1965, King overhauled the number for this show, dramatically increasing the tempo and dropping verses to bring it in at well-under two minutes.
B.B. King: guitar & vocal /
Leo Lauchie: bass / Sonny Freeman: drums
Duke Jethro: organ / Kenny Sands: trumpet /
Johnny Board & Bobby Forte: tenor saxophones
Live at the Regal (ABC-Paramount 1965)
B.B. King – Woke Up This Morning – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbOkh2TUO5U
King’s blistering intro, (all 15 seconds of it) signals the quicker tempo, but drummer Sonny Freeman kicks the number into overdrive as he flies across his kit with the horns in hot pursuit.
With the music whirling around him, King seems to take his time with the vocal; where he used his voice to illustrate his troubles on the original recording, his singing slower than the music creates a dynamic tension all its own.
It’s unfortunate that the number is brought to such an abrupt finish; it almost feels almost as if he wanted to get it out of the way to allow him to move on to another number.
Peter Green (like many British Blues guitarists) knew the LP “Live at the Regal”, having covered two of the songs on it, with one, ‘How Blue Can You Get’ becoming something of a set standard for his band around the time they went into the studio to record tracks for their second LP.
There is no doubt however that the arrangement of Green’s ‘Rollin’ Man’ was based on King’s original recording of the song; what we don’t know is if Green was already familiar with the recording or if someone else (my guess would be Mike Vernon) introduced him to it.
Peter Green: vocal & guitar /
John McVie: bass / Mick Fleetwood: drums /
Christine Perfect: piano /
Steve Gregory: alto saxophone / Johnny Almond: tenor saxophone
Released on, Mr. Wonderful (Blue Horizon 1968)
Rollin’ Man (Peter Green) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZDagJ-tXeQ
The number opens with Green already peeling off licks and the listener feels as if they have just managed to jump onto this train as if pulls out of the station. Christine Perfect’s piano provide the rhythmic piston push to motor this behemoth down the track as the horns stoke the excitement with their steam whistle blasts.
The number comes to a dead stop after the musical intro and when Green begins to sing, he accompanied only by the rhythm section and Perfect’s unrelenting piano.
On the second verse, as Green pushes his seductive agenda, the horns begin to moan beneath him. This leads into the first break, with Green’s paint-peeling tone laid over the roar of the band.
Perfect adds immeasurably to the number’s success, but this is also some of Fleetwood’s finest work to be captured on tape up until this time. Rather than locking into a specific pattern and holding it with metronomic rigidity, he finally loosens up and tosses in some rolls, flowing with the music.
For me, this number best captures the feel that Vernon and the band were said to be going for on this LP, recording live, in the studio.
As with King’s original number, Green’s too has garnered some interesting covers.
The first (I believe that this was the first cover of a Green-penned song, if anyone can point me to an earlier one, I would appreciate it) was done not long after the LP’s release. The Oscar Benton Blues-Band in the Netherlands recorded the song from their debut 1968 Decca release “Feels So Good”.
Oscar Benton Blues-Band
Oscar Benton: vocal & guitar /
Barrelhouse Bailey: piano /
H.J.B. Hawkins: bass / Lonesome Tanny Lant: drums
Feel So Good (Decca 1968) – Netherlands
Oscar Benton Blues-Band – Rollin’ Man – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wc3OvOb-Hig
Without the benefit of horns, the band leans more heavily on the piano, which is a good thing, but the number might have benefitted had the drums brought up and the bass dialed down.
Benton takes the vocal and plays the lead guitar, opting for high-speed strumming to keep up the energy.
The band handles it all quite nicely the only downside, for me is that Benton’s vocals put me in mind of Victor Brox of the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation (not a good thing). In part three, we’ll take a look at a few other noteworthy covers of both King’s original and Peter Green’s homage