Howlin Wolf at 101.

With Hubert Sumlin and a cool guitar.
Early deodorant ad.
Well worth the $1.00.
He just swallowed his harmonica.
At Sylvio’s, ’64.
Early shot, another cool guitar.
At home in Chicago, a White Sox fan?
Back at Sylvios.
Yet another cool guitar.


Upsetting the folks at a Folk Festival.


 European TV, ’66.

Howlin’ Wolf (born Chester Arthur Burnett outside of West Point, Mississippi, June 10, 1910, died January 10, 1976) would have been 101 today, had he lived. If they dug him up and stuck his bones onstage he’d still be better than 99.9% of what passes for blues or rock’n’roll these days. I’ve already blogged on him before (here and here), so I have little to add, except he remains my very favorite singer, and when ever I hear so and so (name your most overrated singer here) is a great “soul” singer, I want to stick a Howlin’ Wolf 78 in their ear. If you are not familiar with Wolf’s music, start with his early Chess and RPM sides, then the un-issued Sun Sessions, forget the psychedelic “birdshit” album, the London Sessions and SuperBlues jams unless you are a completist. For further reading I suggest James Segrest and Mark Hoffman’s Moanin’ At Midnight: The Life and Times Of Howlin’ Wolf (Pantheon Books, 2004). Happy Birthday Wolf, where ever you are.

22 thoughts on “Howlin Wolf at 101.”

  1. Totally agree, though I actually like his London session, though only one worth listening to among all those London sessions. The “Moanin' at Midnight'' book is excellent and surprising.

  2. The Wolf actually made a soul record once, an answer record to Syl Johnson's Come On Sock it to Me called Pop it to Me. It's actually pretty good although certainly not on the same level as anything he recorded in the 50's or early 60's.

  3. Enjoyed yer post on da Wolf. I had the pleasure of meeting him at Paul's Mall in Boston back in 1970back when I was a senior in high school. When I shook his hand, I noticed it was as big as a gawdamn coal shovel. He leaned over & whispered in my ear, “Hey kid, drink whiskey, get frisky.”

  4. seconding joe's comment. there's that amazing footage from the don mcglynn doc where wolf upbraids one of his idols, son house, for being a drunken wastrel and pissing away his money and his life. it's hair raising. have to say if i had the chance to go back and see one act live that i missed, wolf would be it 10 times out of ten.

  5. I listen to Wolf and wonder, “Why even bother with The Rolling Stones? No one's as good as this guy!”Then when I slap on “Exile,” I remember, they weren't so bad!

  6. Those are indeed some cool-ass gitfiddles, but I'm finding myself really drawn to the Kay bass guitar in the live shots. And I don't even play bass! Just looking at it you can tell what it must sound like, a thudding “phlonk” with zero sustain, like a clothesline stretched over a pine coffin. The coolest bass tone in the world, pretty much extinct since 1965…

  7. Hey Hound,Where'd you get that photo of Wolf with BB King at the new 708 Club? I've never seen it before, and I've seen a lot of Wolf pix!-Mark HoffmanCo-author of “Moanin' at Midnight: The Life and Times of Howlin' Wolf”

  8. “Where'd you get that photo of Wolf with BB King at the new 708 Club? I've never seen it before, and I've seen a lot of Wolf pix!”Can't remember where it came from, but BB's autograph was already on it.

  9. Man, I'd give my right arm to find the original of this! (Speaking of which, the photo is reversed: Wolf and BB, both right-handed, are holding their drinks with their left hands–unlikely.) I'll bet there's more where this came from, too. Looks like it was shot by the club photographer at the 708 Club, where Wolf's band played a lot back when he had both Jody Williams and Hubert Sumlin on guitar and Earl Phillips on drums. Hound, if you can remember where you lifted this photo, let me know. I want to contact whoever owns this to find out about its provenance. The hunt continues….still following the trail of the Wolf.-Mark Hoffman

  10. “Hound, if you can remember where you lifted this photo, let me know. I want to contact whoever owns this to find out about its provenance. “email me c/o this page….

  11. Say what you will, I still like the London Sessions, esp. the accoustic intro to “Little Red Rooster”, where Eric Clapton asks Wolf to show him how to play the guitar licks on the song. Wolf: “Aeways start at the top. Don't start at the bottom” (Plays a few bars) “and then he come in, and then you go BOOM!” Classic.

  12. Hello there: I work for The Oxford American Magazine, and we're currently researching our upcoming Southern Music Issue. This year, we're focusing on artists from Mississippi. We're big fans of your blog, and were hoping you might be able to suggest some pop/garage/bubblegum artists you think we should check out. Thanks for your input on this, and keep up the good work!All best, Natalie Elliottnelliott@oxfordamerican.org

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