Killing Floor

“No time for the killing floor

No time left for you” – “No Time” by The Guess Who

So what exactly is meant by the phrase, “Killing Floor”? Who coined the phrase?

Killing floor stems from a classic old song associated with Chicago electric blues. Killing floor is also a reference to the place in the slaughterhouse where the stock was killed and then butchered, hence a scene of danger, difficulty, bloodshed, etc. A point of no return.

“Killing Floor” is a 1964 blues song recorded by Howlin’ Wolf, a.k.a. Chester Arthur Burnett on Chess Records, the definitive blues label. The guitar riff that opens this classic blues anthem was created by Hubert Sumlin, who is still playing today. Witness this “Killing Floor” video highlight with David Johansen and Hubert Sumlin filmed at Radio City Music Hall in 2003.
Rosemary and I attended this 5 1/2 hour star-studded event which was the Year of the Blues 2003, a 100 year celebration of the founding of the blues. The concert became a Sony Picture Classics feature-length film, Lightning In A Bottle, directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) and produced by Martin Scorsese.

Musicians performing “Killing Floor”

I first heard “Killing Floor” on Electric Flag’s album, not realizing it was originally written and performed by Howlin” Wolf. It makes total sense now with Mike Bloomfield being a blues guitarist born and raised on the blues in Chicago. Electric Flag played “Killing Floor” as a great driving song with Mike Bloomfield on guitar, Buddy Miles on drums and Nick Gravenites on vocals. I really like the horn arrangement on this track from A Long Time Comin (1968).

One of my all time favorite recordings

Jimi Hendrix loved playing “Killing Floor.”  He was a fantastic blues guitarist. Here is his performance of “Killing Floor” from The Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 with The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Led Zeppelin often played “Killing Floor” in their live set during their first concert tour of the United States. Killing Floor” evolved into “The Lemon Song” (Led Zeppelin II).

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