BETTER KNOWN AS HOWLIN’ WOLF: Chester Arthur Burnett (June 10, 1910 – January 10, 1976), was an influential American blues singer, guitarist and harmonica player.
“With a booming voice and looming physical presence, Burnett is commonly ranked among the leading performers in electric blues; musician and critic Cub Koda declared, “No one could match Howlin’ Wolf for the singular ability to rock the house down to the foundation while simultaneously scaring its patrons out of its wits.” A number of songs written or popularized by Burnett—such as “Smokestack Lightnin'”, “Back Door Man”, “Killing Floor” and “Spoonful”—have become blues and blues rock standards.
At 6 feet, 6 inches & close to 300 pounds (136 kg), he was an imposing presence with one of the loudest and most memorable voices of all the “classic” 1950s Chicago blues singers. This rough-edged, slightly fearsome musical style is often contrasted with the less crude but still powerful presentation of his contemporary and professional rival, Muddy Waters. Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller), Little Walter Jacobs, and Muddy Waters are usually regarded in retrospect as the greatest blues artists who recorded for Chess in Chicago. Sam Phillips once remarked, “When I heard Howlin’ Wolf, I said, ‘This is for me. This is where the soul of man never dies.'” In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him #51 on their list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”.
(thanks, wikipedia. )
I go through music phases. This was especially the case in my days working at the last coffee shop i did, three years. I could play whatever i wanted on the crappy radio/cd player we had. It didn’t work so well by the time I’d left- probably too much toffee nut, raspberry syrup spilled on it too much. Whatever- anyway, the point is, I could play whatever I wanted. & working an 8 hour shift by yourself in the space the size of a walk in closet (& NOT an awesome, Sex & The City type closet,) you get bored after listening to the same thing over & over.
Not only that, but i had to think about what was appropriate- i should also mention this was a coffee shop inside of a hospital so my Marilyn Manson, Sex Pistols, & Patti Smith CDs were pretty much out. (Okay, i did play SOME Patti Smith.) So i got creative with what music i played. Jack Johnson, Ben Harper, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Rolling Stones, (some) Bob Dylan (OF COURSE), Johnny Cash (OF COURSE), Iron & Wine, Ray Charles, Cat Power, Elvis Perkins, Patsy Cline, Explosions in the Sky, Elvis Presley (OF COURSE), Buddy Holly, Neil Young, Billie Holiday (OF COURSE), Ella Fitzgerald, – i could go on. (Did i mention: I LOVE MUSIC.) But at one point, i got into the Blues pretty bad for awhile. So good. I have many favorites from the era (Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker, Robert Johnson etc etc etc), but Howlin’ Wolf, I’d have to say (maybe) is my favorite.
There’s something about the sheer raw grit in his voice- mixed with that piano, guitar, the whole shebang- it’s just something great. There’s life in the Blues- a certain kind of dark, almost lost (now) type of life… poverty. Before technology. Some kind of strange, adventurous sort of life filled with booze, wild women & general trouble. Cheap coffee. Trains. I don’t know. Also, it’s probably safe to say i love anything with a Harmonica.
Then of course I found this- the actual album cover for a collection of Jimi Hendrix inspired versions of Wolf’s songs. There are no words for the awesomeness. Thanks to Mr. Douglas Anderson for the info. Photo Credit: Meltingpotblog.com.
& of course, my personal favorites: