June 10, 1910, and the 2000 Chicago Blues Fest tribute to him,
Bob's Blues Legend is proud to feature
Howlin' Wolf, who's real name was Chester Arthur Burnett, was born June 10, 1910 in West Point, MS. He was named after the 21st President of the U.S. He was a big man in more ways than one, standing 6' 3" tall and weighing around 300 lbs., he had nicknames such as "Bull Cow" and "Big Foot Chester". He was big in physical stature and also had a huge influence on both blues and rock music. Known as an outrageous character, his on-stage presence left the audience amazed. He'd growl, howl, pound on tables, crawl on the floor, and was even known to climb up walls or curtains, at times he'd be simply terrifying. He had the unique ability to thrill the audience and really rock the joint. Howlin' Wolf was born on a plantation, his father was a farmer, and Wolf farmed too until he was 18 years old. Then a chance meeting with Charlie Patton, "Founder of the Delta Blues" changed his life forever. He began to visit Charlie in the evenings and learned a few quitar chords from him. He also learned both Charlie's growling vocal style and his crowd pleasing performing style. For a while Wolf roams the Mississippi Delta area, and eventually meets Robert Johnson, and also runs around with Sonny Boy Willimason II (Aleck Rice Miller) who would later marry Wolf's sister. Sonny Boy among other things taught him to play harmonica. In the early 1930s he started playing around the "Cotton Belt", mainly as a Charlie Patton imitator. Later on in the 30s he is known to play one of the first electric guitars ever seen. After spending 4 years in the Army, Wolf settles in West Memphis, Araknsas. By 1948 he's a radio personality on station KWEM with a 15 minute show featuring down-home blues and farm reports. He forms his 1st band that features Willie Johnson on guitar. In 1951 he makes his first recordings with Sam Phillips's famed Memphis Recording Service. Phillips would later call Wolf his greatest discovery, even greater than Elvis Presley. Phillips simultaneously sells Wolf's tunes to both an L.A. record company, and the Chess brothers in Chicago, and Wolf is caught up in a liscencing battle. Eventually Phillips gives the rights of another performer, Roscoe Gordon to RPM records in L.A., and Wolf signs with the Chess brothers. In the winter of 1953 Wolf moved to Chicago. Later he'd say he had "a $4000 car and $3900 in my pocket" and noted that he "drove out of the South like a gentleman". By 1954 he starts recording regularly for Chess records with his new band that features Hubert Sumlin on guitar. In 1956 the hits are rolling, he records "Evil" and "Smokestack Lightning". And by 1960 he teams up with Willie Dixon at Chess records. For the next 5 years almost all Wolf's songs are written by Dixon and they produce a string of hits. All these songs are Howlin' Wolf/Willie Dixon compositions:
"I Ain't Superstitious"
"The Red Rooster"
"Shake For Me"
"Wang Dang Doodle" Many of these hits have a major impact on the emerging blues rock scene in England. By 1965 the Rolling Stones version of "Red Rooster" goes to #1 in England. The Stones are such fans of Wolf that when they do the TV show "Shindig" they request Howlin' Wolf be on the show with them. In 1964 Wolf and Dixon split, but Wolf keeps putting out hits such as "Killing Floor", which is remade into a hit by Led Zepplin. Many other Brtitish bands such as Cream, Eric Clapton, The Yardbirds, and Jeff Beck redid the Wolf's hits. Some American rock bands such as the Doors and The Allman Brothers also turned remakes of Wolf's songs into hits. By the 70's Wolf was a sick man. He'd had numerous heart attacks, and had a failing liver due to an auto accident when Wolf was thrown through the windshield. In 1976 he enters a V.A. Hospital for an operation, but dies before it can be done. Howlin Wolf died January 10, 1978 in Hines, IL. Today, Wolf is memorialized with a life size statue in a Chicago park. Eddie Shaw took over as bandleader of Wolf's band and they've performed for many years under the name "Wolf Gang", including an appearance at this years Chicago's Blues Fest. In 1980 he enters the Blues Foundation Hall Of Fame and in 1991 he enters the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame, There's also a US Postage Stamp in his honor. Wolf's home town, the city of West Point, MS holds a Memorial Blues Fest every year to honor the man! Check out their web page: West Point - Howlin' Wolf Blues Fest
Howlin Wolf - His Best
1313 S. Mattis Ave.
Champaign, IL 61821