SINCE 1997

(1910 - 1976)
(born June 10, 1910, West Point, Mississippi; 
died January 10, 1976, Hine, Illinois)
Howlin' Wolf was one of modern blues' most electrifying performers.  Physically a large man, standing over six feet tall and weighing nearly 300 pounds, he would crawl out onto the stage on all fours, or jump around like an angry man, like a wolf-man.  The energy with which he sang added a brand new dimension to the traditional Delta Blues upon which his style was based (Escott, 1991).

Born Chester Arthur Burnett in West Point, Mississippi, Howlin' Wolf grew up on a cotton plantation and spent most of his life as a farmer, entertaining only on the side.  Among his many musical influences was the blues yodeling "Father of Country Music," Jimmie Rodgers.  Wolf said, "I couldn't do no yodelin', so I turned to growlin', then howlin', and it's done fine for me."

After serving in World War II, Wolf moved to West Memphis, Arkansas, bought an electric guitar, and formed his first band (Shaw, 1986).  He made his first recordings at Sun Studios with Sam Phillips in the spring of 1951.  In February of the next year, he signed with Chess Records and eventually moved to the Chicago blues scene.  In the early 60s, he played overseas with the American Blues Festival package and performed regularly in some of Chicago's most noted clubs (Santelli, 1993).

Wolf began to slow down by the early 70s due to ill health and an automobile accident which damaged his kidney.  His last performance was in Chicago with B. B. King in November of 1975; he died two months later of kidney failure.

Howlin' Wolf was inducted into the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.  He is, perhaps, "the most underrated of the R & B generation of bluesmen" (Shaw, 1978).

Escott, Colin and Hawkins, Martin.  Good Rockin' Tonight:  Sun records and the Birth of Rock 'n' Roll. New York,  New York:  St. Martin's Press, 1991.

Santelli, Robert.  The Big Book of BluesNew York, New York:  Penguin Publishing, 1993.

Shaw, Arnold.  Black Popular Music in AmericaNew York, New York:  Schirmer Books, 1986.

Shaw, Arnold.  Honkers and Shouters:  The Golden Years of Rhythm & Blues.  New York, New York:  Macmillan Publishing Company, inc., 1978.

By Carl P. McConnell

Mabel McConnell talks about the Carter Family, Doc & Carl,
The Original Virginia Boys and the early days of radio.