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Killing Floor (Howlin' Wolf song)

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Title: Killing Floor (Howlin' Wolf song)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Hear My Train A Comin', Radio One (album), Howlin' Wolf, Albert King, Led Zeppelin North American Tour Spring 1969
Collection: 1964 Singles, 1964 Songs, Blues Songs, Chess Records Singles, Howlin' Wolf Songs, The Jimi Hendrix Experience Songs
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Killing Floor (Howlin' Wolf song)

"Killing Floor"
Single by Howlin' Wolf
B-side "Louise"
Released 1964 (1964)–1965
Format Seven-inch 45 rpm record
Recorded Chicago, August 1964
Genre Blues
Length 2:48
Label Chess (no. 1923)
Writer(s) Howlin' Wolf aka Chester Burnett
Producer(s) Leonard Chess, Phil Chess, Willie Dixon
Howlin' Wolf singles chronology
"My Country Sugar Mama"/ "Love Me Darlin'"
"Killing Floor"
"Tell Me What I Have Done"/ "Ooh Baby"

"Killing Floor" is a 1964 song by American blues singer-songwriter and guitarist Howlin' Wolf. Called "one of the defining classics of Chicago electric blues",[1] "Killing Floor" has been recorded by a variety of artists and has been acknowledged by the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame.


  • Original song 1
  • Jimi Hendrix rendition 2
  • Led Zeppelin version 3
  • Other recordings 4
  • References 5

Original song

Howlin' Wolf recorded "Killing Floor" in 1964 and it was released as a single. According to blues guitarist and longtime Wolf associate Hubert Sumlin, the song refers to male-female relationships: "Down on the killing floor – that means a woman has you down, she went out of her way to try to kill you. She at the peak of doing it, and you got away now ... You know people have wished they was dead – you been treated so bad that sometimes you just say, 'Oh Lord have mercy.' You’d rather be six feet in the ground."[2]

"Killing Floor" is an upbeat twelve-bar blues with an "instantly familiar" guitar riff provided by Sumlin.[1] Backing Howlin' Wolf (vocals) and Sumlin (electric guitar) are Lafayette Leake (piano), Buddy Guy (acoustic guitar), Andrew McMahon (bass), Sam Lay (drums), Arnold Rogers (tenor sax), and Donald Hankins (baritone sax). The song appears on several Howlin' Wolf compilation albums, including his 1966 album The Real Folk Blues. In 1991, "Killing Floor" was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in the "Classics of Blues Recordings" category.[3]

Jimi Hendrix rendition

Jimi Hendrix performed "Killing Floor" early in his career, including early vocal performances with Curtis Knight and the Squires during 1965–1966. Shortly after arriving in England in September 1966, Hendrix performed the song when he sat in with Cream. "Killing Floor" was included in the set list of the newly formed Jimi Hendrix Experience. The song was often a set opener and Hendrix played the song at a faster tempo with a different rhythm guitar and bass line. Early recordings include live versions from October 1966 in Paris (The Jimi Hendrix Experience box set), March 1967 in the BBC studios (BBC Sessions), and June 1967 at the Monterey International Pop Festival (Jimi Plays Monterey).

Led Zeppelin version

Led Zeppelin performed "Killing Floor" live in 1968 and 1969 and it became the basis for their "The Lemon Song". In some early performances Robert Plant introduced the song as "Killing Floor"; an early UK pressing of Led Zeppelin II showed the title as "Killing Floor" and was credited to Chester Burnett aka Howlin' Wolf. Led Zeppelin's version was performed at a much slower tempo (until the bridge) with some different lyrics. After legal action by Howlin' Wolf's publisher, his name was added to the credits for "The Lemon Song".

Other recordings

The Electric Flag, a blues-rock group led by guitarist Mike Bloomfield, recorded the song[4] for their 1968 album A Long Time Comin'. Their version was also featured on the CBS sampler album, The Rock Machine Turns You On. The song opens with an excerpt of a speech by then U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, which is promptly cut off by the music amid derisive laughter. In 1969, Albert King recorded it for his Years Gone By album. Hubert Sumlin performed it with Eric Clapton, Jimmie Vaughan, and Robert Cray at the 2004, 2007 and 2010 Crossroads Guitar Festival. Joe Bonamassa performed it on Muddy Wolf at Red Rocks live album in 2015.


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Track 4.
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