A Deep Dive Into the Electric Blues of Hound Dog TaylorA Deep Dive Into the Electric Blues of Hound Dog Taylor


A Deep Dive Into the Electric Blues of Hound Dog Taylor

Together with his band The House Rockers, blues icon Hound Dog Taylor was known for his electric blues, dirty slide guitar playing, and an energetic, raucous sound he preferred to straight-up call rock and roll.




August 18, 2022

Hound Dog Taylor & The House Rockers (1971)

Hound Dog Taylor The House Rockers alligator records

"The purists called them a blues band, but Hound Dog called it rock and roll."

—Bruce Iglauer (founder of Alligator Records)

Hound Dog Taylor & The House Rockers was the debut release of Alligator Records, one of the world’s most prominent blues and roots labels around. A wild, raucous sound straight from Chicago’s South Side, backed by Hound Dog Taylor’s two-man band: The House Rockers. Their sound was so relentlessly rough, that one could imagine the band’s set-up was much bigger than only a drummer (Ted Harvey) and guitarist (Brewer Phillips).

Take “Phillip’s Theme,” with sheet-metal lead tones played by the latter on a Telecaster guitar, adding pseudo-basslines into the mix and simultaneously playing guitar chords. This is “one of the greatest slide guitar albums of all time,” in the words of rock and roll singer Cub Koda, who would play the blues together with The House Rockers a decade later.

Natural Boogie (1974)

hound dog taylor natural boogie samples

After their down-and-dirty slide guitar playing, sophomore album Natural Boogie was just as wild yet with a wider range of sounds and emotions in the music. Such as the lighter and groovier “Sadie,” later covered by Son Seals, Magic Slim, Lurrie Bell, Willie Kent & His Gents, among others.

Beware of the Dog! (1976)

hound dog taylor houserockers beware dog

"For lowdown slow blues, it's hard to beat the heartfelt closer 'Freddie's Blues,' and for surreal moments on wax, it's equally hard to beat the funkhouse-turned-loony bin dementia of 'Let's Get Funky.'"

—Cub Koda

Beware of the Dog was recorded live in 1974 at Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and Smiling Dog Saloon (Cleveland, OH), but wasn’t released till after Hound Dog Taylor unfortunate passing in 1975. "Ironically, Hound Dog Taylor didn't live to see the release of this, his first 'live' album," Alligator Records founder Bruce Iglauer writes on the record's back sleeve. "This isn't one of those somber 'memorial' albums. Hound Dog wouldn't have wanted that. He wanted to be remembered with the same kind of irreverence that he put into his music, and into his life. He used to tell me, 'When I die, don't have a funeral—have a party!'"

Release the Hound (2004)

hound dog taylor release hound samples

"The rawer than raw—but still far better than bootleg—quality tapes are only for those already in Hound Dog's house. (...) This has to be heard to be appreciated."

—Hal Horowitz (music journalist)

The posthumous album Release the Hound is a collection of live material, outtakes, and B-sides. An even deeper dive into the mind and times of Hound Dog Taylor.

Roughly a decade after his passing, Hound Dog Taylor was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis, Tennessee. "He was not a virtuoso, nor a master technician. But the few things he could play, he could play like no one else could," blues expert Jim O’Neal writes about his posthumous induction. "He told writer Bob Neff the way he would like to be remembered: 'He couldn’t play shit, but he sure made it sound good.'"

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