“Driftin’ Blues” or “Drifting Blues” is a blues standard that was written and first recorded by Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers in 1945. Performed in the West Coast blues style, the song became one of the biggest blues hits of the 1940s. Over the years, it has been interpreted and recorded by numerous artists. The original “Driftin’ Blues” has been acknowledged by both the Blues Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers recorded “Driftin’ Blues” in 1945. The group, sometimes known as a “club blues” combo, was composed of Charles Brown (vocals and piano), Johnny Moore (guitar), Eddie Williams (bass), and Johnny Otis (drums). The song was developed during their frequent Los Angeles club appearances and is credited to Brown, Moore, and Williams. The song is a slow-tempo twelve-bar blues, that features Brown’s vocal and piano. Brown commented that it “was the first song that I wrote down and tried to sing”. Their performances of the song were well received and led to a recording contract with Philo (soon to become Aladdin) Records. “Driftin’ Blues” became a hit, spending twenty-three weeks in the Billboard R&B chart. The song reached number 2 and “emerged [as] one of the top selling black records in 1945 and 1946”.
“Driftin’ Blues” entered the charts again in 1968 when Bobby “Blue” Bland recorded it. His version reached number 23 during a stay of eleven weeks in the Billboard R&B chart. Bland’s version also made an appearance in the Billboard Pop chart at number 96. At the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, with a horn section, performed an eight-minute version of “Driftin’ Blues”. Another live version of the song, featuring an extended guitar solo, was recorded by Albert King at the Fillmore Auditorium in 1968. In 1969, Charles Brown recorded an updated version of “Driftin’ Blues” that “came off as new, thanks to Earl Hooker’s inspired slide work”. Eric Clapton recorded several versions of the song, including a group arrangement for his live 1975 album E. C. Was Here and a solo acoustic piece (as “Driftin'”) for his 1994 album From the Cradle. In 1997, American R&B and boogie-woogie pianist and singer Little Willie Littlefield recorded a version for his album The Red One.