We lost the source of some great blues the day Howlin’ Wolf died, on January 10, 1976. Howlin’ Wolf was actually named after President Chester A. Arthur (you remember him, right?) and so his real name was Chester Arthur Burnett. He got the name Howlin’ Wolf because young Chester used to be told by his grandfather that if he weren’t a good boy, the wolves in the countryside would eat him.
Howlin’ Wolf made good money, and husbanded it well. He drove a Pontiac station wagon throughout most of his life, but paid his band members generously. Many notable blues standards were popularized by him. In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him #51 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. He was featured in the 2008 motion picture Cadillac Records, played by Eamonn Walker.
He rests in peace in the Oak Ridge Cemetery in Illinois. It is said that Eric Clapton bought the tombstone that marks his grave and paid to have a guitar and harmonica etched into it.
You can listen to the master himself, in this 1966 video recording:
Legendary blues giant Howlin’ Wolf (Chester Burnett)was a uniquely talented songwriter, musician and singer, who legacy is the soul of the blues. The force behind the Brit Rock Invasion, a true “father of Rock & Roll,” and the actual king of the Chicago Blues scene, Wolf was a caring and progressive man (who got health benefits & retirement for his band, back in the day and who even kept “rival” Muddy afloat during hard times)
I was Wolf’s good friend, music student and chosen photographer. You can view 99 iconic and amazing photos of Howlin’ Wolf in concert, at home, and RARE portraits at: http://www.howlingwolfphotos.com
I included a very moving story of our special connection.
With Wolf, there’s a cpnnection to something bigger and deeper at a place that all can sense and share if they but listen and dare to feel it. Wolf’s voice awakens a spirit of truth and reality, joy, pain, fear, humor and mystery violence and love, the way things were for him.. suffering and transcending it to create what only Wolf could do the way he did it. Wolf was infinitely centered and focused.
As Sam Phillips said upon first hearding the Howlin’ Wolf sing, “This is it. This is for me. This is where the soul of man goes and never dies.”
By the way, when Howlin’ Wolf came out to perform in California, he had to drive that wagon, pulling a small trailer of instruments, in order to NOT pay air fares so that he could make any money at all from the venues he and his band performed in. My interview of Howlin’ Wolf, where he explains “in his own words” why he ran away from his uncles home at age 13, makes the first chapter of his Pantheon biography, Moanin’ At Midnight. Sadly, few recordings then seemed to be able to capture the multi-tonal style and full range of the mighty Wolfs rich deep rough and yet smooth expressions.
Thank you for what you did in helping !The Wolf’
I first heard ’’Smokestack Lightnin’ early sixties and bought the 45 only to nearly wear it out.I was then beginning to learn of the amazong output from Chess/Checker:Aristocrat and even VeeJay.