Howlin’ Wolf – Killing Floor

I just posted a song by Howlin’ Wolf a week or so ago but I’ve been listening to him lately so here is another. This song comes with an interesting story between Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton.

When Jimi Hendrix came to England he made a huge impression right away. At a Cream gig he requested a chance to jam with the band. No one in those days asked to do this because Clapton was “God” on guitar to many people…plus Cream as a unit were super talented. Jack Bruce later said that Jimi was a brave person to do that because Cream were all top notch musicans.

Jimi plugged into Jack Bruce’s amp and broke into Killing Floor. Clapton was blown away by it because he never mastered the song. Jimi was ripping right through it at breakneck speed. According to Chas Chandler…Clapton just dropped his hands and was shocked.

Wolf released his version in 1964 and it was written by him.

Hubert Sumlin played guitar on the original version. He said that Wolf played the field, with several ladies in his stable. One of them, a woman named Helen, was so fed up with his philandering that she got a shotgun filled with buckshot and fired at him from a second-floor window.

So, the killing floor is a metaphor for depression, in Wolf’s case triggered by a woman who was so mad she was literally trying to kill him.

Led Zeppelin later used this song as the basis for The Lemon Song.

Eric Clapton:

“I remember thinking that here was a force to be reckoned with. It scared me, because he was clearly going to be a huge star, and just as we are finding our own speed, here was the real thing.” 

“It was amazing,”“and it was musically great, too, not just pyrotechnics.” 

From Songfacts

In this song, Howlin’ Wolf sings about how he should have left his woman a long time ago, imagining how much better he would have it if he went to Mexico when he had the chance. Now, he’s down here on the killing floor.

Wolf wasn’t the first to use the phrase “killing floor” in a song; the Mississippi blues musician Skip James recorded “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” in 1931. James’ version was re-released in 1964, a year before Wolf recorded his “Killing Floor.”

Artists to cover this song include Albert King, Jimi Hendrix and Otis Rush.

Killing Floor

I should have quit you, a long time ago
I should have quit you, babe, long time ago
I should have quit you, and went on to Mexico
If I had-a followed my first mind
If I had-a followed my first mind
I’d been gone, since my second time

I shoulda went on, when my friend come from Mexico at me
I shoulda went on, when my friend come from Mexico at me
But no, I was foolin’ with ya, baby, I let ya put me on the killin’ floor
Lord knows, I shoulda been gone
Lord knows, I shoulda been gone
And I wouldn’t have been here, down on the killin’ floor


Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

26 thoughts on “Howlin’ Wolf – Killing Floor”

  1. I love the “mini-doc” about Clapton and Hendrix. I’d heard the story before, but never directly from the source. Cool. I like Howlin’ Wolf, I like him a lot, though probably not as much as I should. I’m more of a Muddy Waters gal. Ha!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I quite like it… it’s a bit more lively than I would have guessed (I also would have guessed Howlin Wolf went back more to the 40s say than 60s). Looks like Led Zep managed to ignore him in the Lemon Song credits, as was one of their big talents it would seem.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The man had a great voice…I think the best voice of his peers at the time. He has some really cool songs…he really influenced the Rolling Stones

      Zeppelin were great at ignoring old blues artists like you said…that is my biggest complaint against them…plus Page embracing Crowley didn’t bring warm and fuzzy feelings either lol. I was going to say flirtation but it was more than that to him…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is awful. Nashville had a stockyard…I’m not sure all what they did but it stunk also…it’s gone now…I can’t imagine the one the size Chicago would have.


  3. I’m afraid to admit I don’t know much about the history of Hendrix and Cream for that matter except for their legendary status. I never knew they jammed and Hendrix beat Clapton on guitar as it’s conveyed, unless I’m mistaken. Illuminating article Max.


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