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Howlin Wolf....Blues Great

Updated on April 7, 2014

Howlin Wolf

Now before I begin, I understand that this music is not going to be appreciated by everyone, and that's okay, because I'm simply writing about MY kind of music. That being said, I do hope you will enjoy this hub.

I grew up listening to the blues, because it was my mother's kind of music. Although I enjoyed it, it didn't fully register with me until I grew up, which by then was too late to see any of these magnificent performers in person. Among my favorites were Howlin Wolf, Bobby Blue Bland, Muddy Waters, and Bo Diddley. I was so impressed with Howlin Wolf's story that I wanted to share a little of what I learned about him.

Howlin Wolf was born Chester Arthur Burnett, on June 10, 1910, in White Station Mississippi, USA. Wolf was known as one of the best blues singers of his era. He was an imposing figure, standing 6 feet, 6 inches, (198 cm) and weighing somewhere around 300 lbs, (136k kg). Burnett explains how he came by the name Howlin Wolf. He puts it this way, "I got that from my grandfather [John Jones]." His Grandfather would often tell him stories about the wolves in that part of the country, and warn him that if he misbehaved, the howling wolves would "get him".

Wolf's career span some 40 plus years, beginning in the 30's and ending with his death in 1976, at the age of 65. During the 30's he performed in the South with some of the greats of his day, which included, Floyd Jones, Honeyboy Edwards, Roberts Johnson, Son House, Willie Johnson, and many more.The 50's found him making his first recordings with two labels, RPM and Chess Records, he eventually signed with Chess Records.

Interesting Side Note

Of the black blues men of his era, Wolf was said to have been more financially successful, than most. This, I might add, was a rare distinction for a black blues man of the time. He attributed this to, not only his musical ability, but also his avoiding the pitfalls of gambling, alcohol, and "loose women," which so many of his peers fell prey to. What was amazing is that Wolf was functionally illiterate into his 40's, but he eventually returned to school, and earned his G.E.D. He later studied accounting, and other business courses, which helped make him the success that he was. Concerning his success, he described himself as "the onliest one to drive himself up from the Delta like a gentleman" to Chicago, he did this in his own car with four thousand dollars in his pocket, having this kind of money was almost unheard of for black blues men of the time.

Smokestack Lightning

Smokestack Lightning

In the 1950's, of the four songs made by popular by Wolf, that qualified as hits on the Billboard R&B charts, this song "Smokestack Lightning" made it to #8, and stayed there for three weeks. It has come back in vogue due in large part to a very popular American commercial for Viagra. Wolf either wrote or co-wrote the song, which was song by practically every one of his contemporaries, but none can match the heart, and soul, Wolf put into it when he sang it. I can honestly say I don't know what in the world he's saying, LOL, or rather what he means, and I don't think that's the point. I think, when you have the blues it's not what you say it's how you say it. "Smokestack Lightning" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

Although I like this version, I like the original recording better, after listening to this version go over and listen to the original,( which will be about 3 mins long), and see if you don't agree.



Spoonful was recorded in 1960. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame listed Spoonful, Smokestack Lightning, and Red Rooster among the 500 songs that shaped rock and roll.

How Many More Years

How Many More Years

This is a performance in 1966, don't know the location.

Little Red Rooster

Little Red Rooster

Little Red Rooster was recorded in 1962.


This is just a brief outline of Howlin Wolf's life. For more about this magnificent performer, check him out on Wikipedia, under Howlin Wolf.


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    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 5 years ago from Southern California

      I agree he was awesome. I listen to his music as often as I can. Thanks spartucusjones, for stopping and taking time to leave a comment.

    • spartucusjones profile image

      CJ Baker 5 years ago from Parts Unknown

      Thanks for the awesome hub! Howlin' Wolf is a true legend, and more people definitely deserve to know about him. Thanks for sharing!

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 5 years ago from Southern California

      Thanks Kaili, Howlin Wolf is one of my favorite blues singers of all times.

    • Kaili Bisson profile image

      Kaili Bisson 5 years ago from Canada

      What a wonderful Hub, thank you so much for writing this. I love the blues. Voted up and sharing!

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 6 years ago from Southern California

      Thank you Iviv, this was my mother's music also, I only wish I could have seen him live.

    • profile image

      iviv711 6 years ago

      Thank you for sharing the story on Howling Wolf. This was my grandparent's music. I can remember my mother talking about listening to Howling as a little girl.

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 7 years ago from Southern California

      Thank you Rebecca E. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Hope to see you again soon.

    • Rebecca E. profile image

      Rebecca E. 7 years ago from Canada

      welld one, enjoyed it a lot.

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 7 years ago from Southern California

      Nextstopjupiter, these are so much fun, because I'm learning so much about these greats of old.

      Hello, hello, I'm glad that you got a chance to learn of Howlin Wolf, and listen to his music. I hope when I finish my blues article you'll get to know more of the previously unknown blues performers.

      Thank you both for taking the time to read, listen, and leave comments. See you soon.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      I have never heard of him but I loved listening to this recording you hae here. Thank you for a wonderful hub.

    • nextstopjupiter profile image

      nextstopjupiter 7 years ago from here, there and everywhere

      Thanks for sharing these informations about one of my favorite blues musicians and some great music!

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 7 years ago from Southern California

      Eiddwen, you're very nice. I am enjoying this, I'm working on another one to be released soon. Thank you so much for stopping and taking time to leave a comment, I hope to see you again soon.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 7 years ago from Wales

      Hi fastfreta,

      Thank you for taking the time to create and share this hub with us.

      A great story plus learning curve.

      Take care


    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 7 years ago from Southern California

      Oh don't worry Chatkath, there's more to come. Thank you so much for taking a listen.

      Hello there again tamlynken, good to see you again. I'm blushing now, "I guess,(smile)." I mean with all of your visits, I'm really enjoying them, please continue stop by, I love seeing you.

      Again thank you both for stopping, and for your kind comments.

    • tamlynken profile image

      tamlynken 7 years ago from Georgia

      Hi FastFreta, I love Howling Wolf, never heard of him until the movie Cadillac Records came out. It is one of my favorites on the movie soundtrack but it is sung by some else. Thanks for posting the original. I really enjoyed the HUB post. You go girl!

    • Chatkath profile image

      Kathy 7 years ago from California

      Freda, this is great as always! I love your taste in music, you put together a great selection!

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 7 years ago from Southern California

      Tom don't you wish you had seen him, I do. I hope you like Sam's version.

      Paradise7, you know I never thought of it as purely American, but in hindsight I guess it does. And didn't they just put their heart into it.

      DynamicS, thank you again, I'm glad to have introduced Mr. Wolf to you. You know I never read Ms Davis' book, and she was of my era. I guess I should look into it.

      Thank you all for stopping, I'll be over to your hubs soon.

    • DynamicS profile image

      Sandria Green-Stewart 7 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      fasfreta, I'm loving this. I'm only beginning to appreciate blues and as I've never heard of Howlin Wolf, I'll be adding him to my collection.

      I've recently read Angela Davis's book on Blues Legacies and Black Feminism which is about female blues singers such as Bessie Smith, Gertrude Rainey and Billy Holiday. Very interesting historical and political synopsis of Entertainment and culture in US.

      I really enjoy your post. It is very well researched, written and presented.

      Rated up!

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York

      I agree, awesome hub, I love this music ever since Muddy Waters. To me, it's so purely American, and so purely felt, like no other music in the world.

    • justom profile image

      justom 7 years ago from 41042

      No, I didn't get to see him. Freta I had no idea that Sam Cooke did that song and I love Sam Cooke. I'm going to check it out right now. Thanks! Tom

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 7 years ago from Southern California

      Hey Tom, thanks, BTW, did you ever see him live. Oh, say did you ever hear Sam Cooke's version of "Little Red Rooster," if not go over to you tube and listen, you'll really enjoy it? Thank you for stopping, see you soon.

      Thanks for stopping anyway Fay, I realized that this music is not for everyone. Anyway I'll see you later.

    • profile image

      Fay Paxton 7 years ago

      I'm not a blues fan, Freda but I like the way you do your thing. Your hubs are informative and entertaining.


    • justom profile image

      justom 7 years ago from 41042

      Awesome hub Freta, a bunch of rock and roll bands covered his songs. The Rolling Stones did a killer version of Little Red Rooster. This, as you know, is my kind of music too! Nice work, as always! Peace!! Tom


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