Heath Bowen Drums ** Ed Meredith Bass
Peter O’Hare Guitar ** Erroll Woodward Harp/Vocals/Percussion
Automatic Slim is a character borrowed from “Wang Dang Doodle” a blues song written by Willie Dixon. It was first recorded by Howlin’ Wolf in 1960 and released by Chess Records in 1961.
“Wang Dang Doodle” was composed by Willie Dixon during the second part of his songwriting career from 1959 to 1964. During this period, he wrote many of his best-known songs, including “Back Door Man“, “Spoonful“, “The Red Rooster” (better-known as “Little Red Rooster“), “I Ain’t Superstitious“, “You Shook Me“, “You Need Love” (adapted byLed Zeppelin for “Whole Lotta Love“), and “You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover“. In his autobiography, Dixon explained that the phrase “wang dang doodle” “meant a good time, especially if the guy came in from the South. A wang dang meant having a ball and a lot of dancing, they called it a rocking style so that’s what it meant to wang dang doodle”. Rowe writes that Dixon’s song is based on “an old lesbian song” – “The Bull Daggers Ball” – with “its catalog of low-life characters only marginally less colourful that the original”. Dixon claimed that he wrote it when he first heard Howlin’ Wolf in 1951 or 1952, but that it was “too far in advance” for him and he saved it for later. However, Wolf supposedly hated the song and commented, “Man, that’s too old-timey, sound[s] like some old levee camp number“:
- Tell Automatic slim, to tell razor totin’ Jim
- To tell butcher knife totin’ Annie, to tell fast talkin’ Fannie …
- We gonna pitch a wang dang doodle all night long
Howlin’ Wolf recorded the song in June 1960 in Chicago during the same sessions that produced “Back Door Man” and “Spoonful”. Backing Howlin’ Wolf on vocals are Otis Spann on piano, Hubert Sumlin on guitar, Dixon on bass, and Fred Below on drums. Freddy King has also been identified as possibly a second guitarist. In 1961, Chess issued the song as the B-side to “Back Door Man”, however, neither song appeared in the record charts. Both songs are included on Howlin’ Wolf’s popular 1962 compilation album Howlin’ Wolf, also called The Rockin’ Chair Album and many subsequent compilations.