He was always present in the studio ready to play the piano. And you could recognise the bluesman of this article by his stylish suit and hat. Roosevelt Sykes the Honeydripper bluesman had a career in blues which lasted seven decades. He made fame in four Blues cities Helena. St. Louis, Chicago and New Orleans and performed with a whole lot of great musicians.
Sykes music was divers, but always groovy
You will like Roosevelt Sykes for his diversity. For example: ‘Sputnik Baby’ is an electric Blues song with influences from Boogie Woogie, to Chicago Blues. On the other hand St. James Infirmary is a jazzy New Orleans blues song that is slow emotional and goes through your bones. Sykes sings beautiful his piano style is soulful and grooves fine on the slow rhythm.
“The Blues Player, he ain’t worried and bothered,but he’s got something for the worried people”
Roosevelt Sykes – Sputnik Baby
Recording His First Songs for Okeh
According to All music’: Sykes began recording in 1929 for OKeh and was signed to four different labels the next year under four different names (he was variously billed as Dobby Bragg, Willie Kelly, and Easy Papa Johnson)! Sykes joined Decca Records in 1935, where his popularity blossomed. After relocating to Chicago, Sykes inked a pact with Bluebird in 1943 and recorded prolifically for the RCA subsidiary with his combo, the Honeydrippers, scoring a pair of R&B hits in 1945 (covers of Cecil Gant’s “I Wonder” and Joe Liggins’ “The Honeydripper”).
I listed some of my favorite tunes of the Honeydripper in this article Scroll down and experience for yourself!
Classic Blues Songs and Traditional: Goin’ Down Slow
Some blues songs contributed so much to the history of blues and music that the can be named classic songs, or even a traditional. A few musicians have that honour. One of them is St. Louis Jimmy Oden. Goin’ Down Slow’ written by his hand in 1941 is covered over a forty times, and in my opinion it would still be a hit.
This November it rained so hard you wouldn’t think about goin´ out on the street. And yeah there was I walking to the city centre. Muddy Waters, best recordings was on headphone. The song: Goin’ Down Slow. It was what you can call right song on the right time. Wet from the rain, and cold from the wind. After Muddy version was finished. I searched for more versions while freezing my hands of. Wolf, Walter, Dupree, Charles and Sonny Terry’s Goin’ Down Slow made that terrible walk a pleasure. I searched around and found a whole lot of covers of Oden’s Masterpiece. Some of old dogs in blues, also a lot of new bluesman.
The Original: St. Louis Jimmy Oden Blues composer
St. Louis Jimmy Oden was a profilic composer from St. Louis alongside Roosevelt Sykes, Oden travelled throughout the south, mid-west and eventually settled in Chicago. Those days piano and guitar teams where popular around St. Louis. Odin recorded Goin’ Down Slow on November 11, 1941, and was issued on Bluebird records that year.
Other recording Goin’ Down Slow
More than forty times this traditional blues song had been recorded. Champion Jack Dupree, Roosevelt Sykes and Ray Charles where the first musicians to cover Oden’s hit. Almost every recording of Goin’ Down Slow stays close to the original. Howlin’ Wolf however, slightly changed some of the lyrics with the help of Willie Dixon. Wolf and Dixon made a greet dialog song of Goin’ Down Slow. How life for a man slowly slips away. Especially this rhyme:
“Man, you know I done enjoyed things
That Kings and Queens will never have
In fact, Kings and Queens can never get
And they don’t even know about it and good times?”
Howlin’ Wolf – Goin’ Down Slow
The bluesman who dominated the scene for a whole lot of years Howlin’ Wolf recorded Goin’ Down Slow in 1961 for Chess Record. His version is the grittiest, darkest and baddest of all, and therefore maybe the best. You would think It was written for Howlin’ Wolf. Willie Dixon added a few lyrics to the song.
“Now looky here, I did not say I was a millionaire
But I said I have spent more money than a millionaire
‘Cause if I had kept all of the money I done already spent
I would’ve been a millionaire, a long time ago
And women? Great googly moogly”
Little Walter – Goin’ Down Slow
Especially the intro of Walter’s Goin’ Down Slow is amazing, this true electric version is like a opera. Walter really creates the tradegy of the song, and makes it a real blues hit. The electric guitar part is deep and leading in this song. You wouldn’t expect such a leading guitar part in a Little Walter song.
Cousin Joe – Goin’ Down Slow
Down in New Orleans Cousin Joe recorded Goin’ Down Slow in 1994 on his Bad Luck Blues Album. Like you would expect from Cousin Joe the piano is a bit groovy, but Joe’s voice is the key to listening to this song. Joe preaches slow.
Sonny Terry & Brownie MC Ghee – Goin’ Down Slow
Like you would expect from Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee they turn this blues traditional into a Delta Folk mixer. Like most of the versions Goin’ Down Slow is a slow song, but Sonny adds with his harmonica a whole lotta groove into the composition.
BB King – Goin’ Down Slow
One of the few who make this Goin’ Down Slow a groovy rhythm full song is BB King. Especially the ongoing beat makes this song. But BB soulful voice is absolute fantastic.
After listening to al the version of Jimmy Oden’s masterpiece I really favoured the versions of Wolf and Walter. A few weeks later BB King was the man to listen to. There aren’t that many songs that have been recorded so many times, and that is a great thing about this song. You will change your favourite version a couple of time. But the song never changes.