This deceptively simple blues song is a masterpiece of restraint and execution. Recorded first in 1964, it features the voice of Muddy Waters and the piano of Otis Spann in call-and-response. Buoyed by composer Willie Dixon’s bass, Waters slide guitar speaks only twice in the entire song, with bone-chilling results.
As covered in may previous BTM episodes, Muddy Waters was at the leading edge of the movement that brought country blues to the big cities of the north, where it became electrified. This transformed blues became hugely popular in the 1950’s and 60’s, and was a huge influence on the Rock era that followed. This is a great live clip of the song with Muddy Waters, Junior Wells and Buddy Guy:
Willie Dixon often released his own versions of songs he had written for people like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. His 1969 recording of “The Same Thing” is almost surprising in its straight-ahead approach, turning it into a more traditional sounding blues, without the sparseness of Waters’ original.
The sound of The Allman Brothers Band may have changed since their formation in the late 1960’s, but one element has remained consistent – they have always included plenty of blues in their sets. After the death of guitarist Duane Allman in 1971, they continued playing with Dickey Betts handling all the guitar parts, but in the 1990’s they added second guitarist Warren Haynes, reviving the dual-guitar sound of the original lineup. Their 1994 live recording of “The Same Thing” features Haynes on lead vocals. Here’s a live performance of The Allman Brothers Band performing “The Same Thing” from the early 90’s:
Hubert Sumlin will always be remembered for his definitive guitar work with Howlin’ Wolf. Though perhaps overshadowed by Wolf’s enormous presence, Sumlin created some of the most ingenious guitar parts in the blues on songs like “Smokestack Lightning”, “Killing Floor” and “I Ain’t Superstitious”. His 2003 album About Them Shoes with “The Same Thing” featured an unlikely collaboration with vocalist David Johansen a member of the early NYC punk group New York Dolls. Actually Johansen has always had an affinity for the blues, and the Dolls played material from Bo Diddley and Sonny Boy Williamson.
Here are the complete versions of “The Same Thing” tracked through time:
Muddy Waters “The Same Thing” 1964
Willie Dixon “The Same Thing” 1969
The Allman Brothers Band “The Same Thing” 1994
Hubert Sumlin “The Same Thing” 2003