Jack told us that Ol' Sam told him...

DATELINE:  April 6, 2001
Swan Lake, Mississippi

Little Red Rooster

...that he remembers hearing Howlin' Wolf singing, coming back across the old Tallahatchie River Bridge from Sharkey. 

s spring-like weather approaches, we head back out on the road to do some recording.  This time it's Little Red Rooster, written by Willie Dixon and recorded by Howlin' Wolf during the blues revival of the 1960s.  The bridge that Ol' Sam was talking about was a turn style bridge.  When boats too tall to make it under the bridge came up or down the Tallahatchie River the bridge would rotate 90 degrees on its central pillar so the river traffic could pass on either side of the bridge section.  The bridge is gone now but the central brick pilaster remains in the middle of the Tallahatchie. 

We parked the car down by the river and set our microphone stands out in the mud.  Eddie found him an old junk piece of tin roofing to place beneath his stool so the legs wouldn't sink down in the soft clay soil.  Spring was just budding out and we'd forgotten to include insect repellent on our packing list.  I'm here to tell you, the mosquitoes really thought that was a fine place that day.  The wind picked up a little, and that helped keep some of the insects away, but it also made for difficult recording. 

On days like this I've been known to take my coat off and hold it before me trying to block the wind from the microphones.  Eddie says I look like a toreador with my headphones as I attempt to out guess the breeze.  I'm really serious about my work, and sometimes Eddie has a hard time keeping from laughing.  About half way through the first take of Red Rooster, I saw Eddie smiling and thought it was just, you know, my doing El Toro.  When he finished the song he asked if I'd seen that.  I didn't know what he was talking about.  He said that while he was singing, his nose started to itch, and when he looked down, he saw there was a tiny spider building a web between the end of his nose and the microphone.  Rather than stop to deal with the spider he just kept singing and watching it work back and forth between the microphone and his nose.  He couldn't blow it away 'cause you'd hear it in on the recording, and he couldn't swat at it because his hands were busy playing the guitar.  His only hope was that I might notice and be of assistance.  Of course I was too busy chasing the bull..

Little Red Rooster confronts Little Miss Muffet.

Howlin' Wolf, Chester Arthur Burnett, was born in Westpoint, Mississippi in 1910.  He was 6 feet and 3 inches, 270 pounds and had nicknames like Bull Cow and Big Foot Chester.

After we finished our recording, we stood there thinking about how time erodes and magnifies the efforts of people.  I looked at the pilaster in the middle of the river and tried to image the bridge from Sharkey and the young Howlin' Wolf singing as he crossed it, as he worked in the fields.  Could he ever have imagined as he crossed there singing, that his music would have such a powerful influence on the future or that the bridge beneath his feet would disappear and leave future generations searching out his path?

Copyright 2001 Thomasfilms, Inc.