Howlin' Wolf

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About Howlin' Wolf

Howlin’ Wolf possessed a voice like no other in American music. Born Chester Arthur Burnett in 1910, he grew up in Mississippi, where he soaked up the Delta blues of Charley Patton. Named the Wolf by his grandfather, the towering musician cut his first electric sides for Memphis producer Sam Phillips before bolting for Chicago in 1952. In the Windy City, he began recording for the Chess label. This is when word of Burnett’s gravelly, haunted singing began spreading like wildfire. The reverberating cries and moans piercing Chicago blues classics like “Spoonful,” “Evil (Is Going On),” and the spookily hypnotic “Smokestack Lightnin’” sound like those of a man caught between realms: one, an unforgivingly industrial landscape full of temptation and heartache, and the other, a foggy underworld over which a ghostly moon casts contorted shadows. He continued to unleash his quaking live performances, as well as release new material, into the ’70s. Health issues, however, curtailed his activity. Since his death in 1976, Burnett’s legacy has only grown more immense, and the U.S. Postal Service cemented his iconic status in 1994 with a Howlin’ Wolf stamp.

White Station, MS, United States
June 10, 1910

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