John Sieger
Sieger on Songs

“Three Hundred Pounds Of Joy”

This song should be the theme song of NFL lineman.

By - May 26th, 2016 03:58 pm
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Howlin’ Wolf

Howlin’ Wolf

A friend sent a picture of Howlin’ Wolf as a young man. Looking about as thin as he’ll ever be, he’s standing in a grocery store, where in a white jacket and tie and radiating something that could come from him and no one else. It’s a Wolfbeam. When this intimidating ray of threat and tenderness was aimed at the ladies, I’m sure they melted. It also emanated from his singular take on the blues and it changed the game.

Let’s quote two of his greatest students from the other side of the tracks, Tom Waits and Captain Beefheart. Waits on Wolf: “(his) voice is “otherworldly…should be in a time capsule somewhere…It’s rather daunting to hear somebody like Howlin’ Wolf, because you know that you’ll never achieve that…You can scream into a pillow for a year and never get there.”

Waits famously sued a jingle house for an ad featuring a singer whose voice was too close to his style. For that infringement he was justly awarded a hefty sum, but I hope he shared a little with Chester Burnett’s (Wolf’s real name) estate. To get Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart’s real name) take on him, listen to anything he ever recorded. His lyrics may have come from a distant planet, but his voice was rooted in the same Iuka, Mississippi mud that young Chester played in as a boy.

The fact that both Waits and Beefheart made miraculous music redeems their appropriation of another singer’s style. They both had much to offer beyond mere impersonation. Sadly, a lot of folks who might be familiar with both of their catalogs may know less about Howlin’ Wolf. He was one, if not the greatest, of Chess Record’s artists. That distinction will probably never be made when you’re on a label that also features Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddly.

Every suburban kid lurking in a Milwaukee music store aspiring to be the next Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page or Jeff Beck should also know the name Hubert Sumlin. He played guitar on most of Wolf’s classic sides, including today’s treat, “Three Hundred Pounds Of Joy.” and spent his later years right here in Milwaukee. If one guitarist can be said to have inspired British Blues, it would be Hubert. Listen to his slinky lines on this, then go back to your Led Zeppelin or Cream records and connect the dots. The source was right here in our backyard, anonymous to most but a few blues players like Jim Liban and Steve Cohen who were lucky enough to work with him in his sunset years.

Wolf grew to be a big, imposing man. The title of this song is probably no exaggeration. While Wolf was great writer himself, he was also a topnotch interpreter of The Poet of the Blues, Willie Dixon. A giant himself, like Wolf, Dixon was through the roof prolific and created some of the most distinctive songs in Chicago Blues. They’re all sly, sparkling and salty as heck. With Howlin’ Wolf voicing his teasing come-ons, you have a tag team that can take on anybody.

Well, all you girls think the days are gone
You don’t have to worry, you can have your fun
Take me, baby, for your little boy
You get three hundred pounds of heavenly joy
This is it
This is it
Look what you get

You been pinnin’ and hidin’ behind his back
And you got you a man that you don’t like
Throw that cat, baby, outta your mind
Follow me, baby, have a real good time
This is it
This is it
Look what you get
Hoy, hoy, I’m the boy
I got three hundred pounds of heavenly joy
I’m so glad that you understand
I’m three hundred pounds of muscle and man
This is it
This is it
Look what you get

© Willie Dixon

This should be the theme song of NFL lineman. God bless you Willie, if only for the wonderful line, ”I’m three hundred pounds of muscle and man.” And, “Hoy Hoy?” That somehow gives me unexplainable joy. Dixon was the creator of some sublime nonsense, the kind that is so good it actually starts to makes sense. He wrote “Wang Dang Doodle,” a song Dylan would proudly claim. As would John Lennon or Beck.

We may hate the Bears, but props absolutely have to be given, perhaps a little reluctantly, to the town that has provided our country with such a ridiculously disproportionate amount great music. I’m reluctant because Milwaukee at times seem like such a footnote. Are we unnecessary in the way New Jersey is to New York? I wouldn’t go that far, but yes, we are the junior partner.

On the plus side, it’s always been a short 90 mile drive, and the road travels both ways. The great bluesmen were often seen in clubs here and fans from our fair city could travel an hour and a half to see some of the best artists in the world. So you’d think I would have made that trip. I saw many great shows in Chicago but sadly, I never caught Holwin’ Wolf — that’s a major regret. He was a legendary showman with an offbeat sense of humor, sometimes he came on stage dressed as a janitor, push broom in hand, sweeping his way up to the microphone. If I had the time machinery my first stop would be Chicago in the that golden era of Chess Records, where I could catch Howlin’ Wolf in his prime. Now that would be three hundred pounds of heavenly joy!

2 thoughts on “Sieger on Songs: “Three Hundred Pounds Of Joy””

  1. another big-time Wolf fan: he was singled out by Sam Phillips as Sam’s ‘greatest discovery’, with Elvis in 2nd place (Wolf first recorded at Sun Records)–

  2. Christina Zawadiwsky says:

    I did see Howlin’ Wolf in Chicago, but I never heard this song before – how great that he’s proud of every pound of himself!

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