Recording With Hubert Sumlin and Keith Richards
The last cut on Hubert Sumlin’s record, “This Is the End, Little Girl,” was recorded at Keith’s house in that same place with that same setup. It was only Keith, Hubert, and Paul Nowinski – the bass player – on that. That was our setup from the previous night.
Hubert had come over to have a meeting with Keith to discuss business. Afterwards, we went downstairs and the stuff was still set up from the night before. They just picked up instruments and started playing. This song just came out of nowhere. I just pushed the record button on the CD recorder. It never even went to any other medium; it just went straight to CD.
That’s how that song was recorded. There’s your relation with “You Win Again.” That was done in the exact same space in sort of the exact same way. Although with “You Win Again,” there are overdubs. It’s a very good story, the whole “You Win Again” thing.
Hubert was just gleeful. He was not a technical guy and didn’t think about recording. He wouldn’t have related that back to Chess Records. To him it was like an old, friendly dog had come back to see him. He was feeling this feeling like he felt at Chess Records. He said something like, “Son, we got something here,” just something kind of calm. Keith and I looked at each other. Nobody really quite yet understood what we had.
Hubert’s record had been recorded at another studio in New Jersey. Keith got involved late in the game for whatever reason. I didn’t use a lot of microphones, but I didn’t do this technique because after the Wingless Angels, I had never tried this again.
Now I started to think about the Wingless Angels, of course. Not only Ron Malo, but the Wingless Angels came to mind. I looked at Keith, I said, “Hey, man. We’re actually now picking up where we left off.” He said, “Exactly. We are.” Because he’s so smart and astute about all this stuff and has a great ear.
When we went to cut Keith’s track for Hubert’s record, we went and did it out in New Jersey because we had made the rest of the record out there. The first thing that we did was set up this situation like we did at Keith’s house.
Because of the size of this room, this studio – much bigger than this room at Keith’s house, a much higher ceiling and a much bigger room – it sounded like it was in a damn cathedral or something. That’s what happens when you use very few microphones. It kind of multiplies what you perceive as the size of the space by about three.
I said, “Well, this isn’t going to fit into the rest of the situation.” They had these big baffles, these big portable walls, so to speak. They had big, tall ones at the studio that were 12 feet tall.
We took these things and we built a space in the middle of the room that was about 15 feet by 15 feet. We made these baffles in this pattern and made a room within a room. They set up in that space in a circle and we recorded the same way. I placed the microphones in the same way I would have done it at Keith’s house.
It took a little bit of experimenting, but we got it right. We were just over the moon when we heard it back in the control room. We were like, “Wow. We did it. We did it in a recording studio. Wow.” We were so excited.
That thing on Hubert’s record, that’s exactly as it existed. There are no overdubs. That was done to two-inch tape and it was actually two performances that I cut back and forth between on two-inch tapes. There must have been ten edits. But then, when it was mixed, we got this cool mix up and I ran it off to a CD recorder.
We could never beat that mix. We used that as the mix, what I put on that CD recorder. That was the mix of the song. There were no overdubs at all. On that thing that was done for Hubert’s record, “Still a Fool,” recorded in the same way as the Wingless Angels and “You Win Again.” For all intents and purposes, it was live.