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The Blues: Howlin' Wolf

Updated on December 21, 2015

Howlin' Wolf

Chester Arthur " Howlin' Wolf' Burnett was born on June 10, 1910, He was an influential American Blues singer, guitarist and harp player.

His booming voice and looming physical presence (6 feet, 6 inches tall and close to 300 pounds!) ranks him among the legendary performers in electric Blues.

A number of songs written or popularized by Burnett, including his "Smokestack Lightnin" (1956) and "Killing Floor" (1964) and Willie Dixon's "Back Door Man" (1961) and "Spoonful" (1960) quickly became Blues standards.

The Early Years

Born in White Station, Mississippi, ... he was named after Chester A. Arthur, the 21st President of the United States, and was nicknamed Big Foot Chester and Bull Cow in his early years because of his massive size.

He explained the origin of the name Howlin' Wolf thus: "I got that from my grandfather." 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".

According to the documentary film The Howlin' Wolf Story, Howlin' Wolf's parents broke up when he was young. His very religious mother Gertrude threw him out of the house while he was still a child for refusing to work around the farm; he then moved in with his uncle, Will Young, who treated him badly.

When he was 13, he ran away and claimed to have walked 85 miles (137 km) barefoot to join his father, where he finally found a happy home within his father's large family. During the peak of his success, he returned from Chicago to his home town to see his mother again, but was driven to tears when she rebuffed him and refused to take any money he offered her, saying it was from his playing the "Devil's music". (Courtesy Wikipedia)

"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." (Cub Koda)

How Many More Years

Chess issued Howlin' Wolf's "Moanin' At Midnight" b/w "How Many More Years" on August 15, 1951

"How many more years have I got to let you dog me around

I'd soon rather be dead sleeping six feet in the ground"

Moanin' At Midnight was Howlin' Wolf's first big hit, followed by the flip side, Moanin' at Midnight, Smokestack Lightning and I Asked For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline)....SO...

How Many More Years?

"I couldn't do no yodelin', so I turned to howlin'."

Moanin' at Midnight

Another smash hit from the "Moanin' at Midnight' release, Howlin' Wolf's first album.

And then, for something completely different.... it's Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company with some awesome rock and roll...

Who says the Blues didn't give birth to rock and roll?

Miss you, Janice...

Moanin' At Midnight Lyrics

Howlin' Wolf

Well, somebody knocking on my door

Well, somebody knocking on my door

Well, I'm so worried, don't know where to go

Well, somebody calling me, calling on my telephone

[ From:]

Well, somebody calling me, over my telephone

Well, keep on calling, tell them I'm not at home


Well, don't not worry, Daddy's gone to bed

Men lied about that ---

Some of them cried about that ---

Some of them died about that ---

But everything fightin' about a spoonful

That spoon, that spoon, that ---


Smokestack Lightning - original and instrumental - Howlin' Wolf, Tom & Jerry

I Asked For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline)

Who do you love? if anyone could pick just one...

Who is your favorite electric Blues artist?

See results

Little Red Rooster

This performance is from the original Chess release. There are a good many more available, but I like this one....

Because I like to provide contrast whenever I can, I've included Jim Morrison's (The Doors) version of Little Red Rooster. I like it because Morrison resisted the temptation to rock& roll and remained true to the song's roots - Hope you like it!

Little Red Rooster
Little Red Rooster

Download the MP3


"Well I'll be around, yes I'll be around To see what you're puttin' down"

I'll Be Around - Chess Release

I'll Be Around Lyrics

Howlin' Wolf

"I'll Be Around"

(Chester Burnett a.k.a. Howlin' Wolf)

Send "I'll Be Around" Ringtone to your Cell

Well I'll be around to see ya baby

Well I'll be around no matter what you say

I'll be around, yes I'll be around

To see what you're puttin' down

You know you told me that you loved me

You know you told me and I hope it's true

Well I'll be around, yes I'll be around

To see what you're puttin' down

You know I called you in the morning

You know I called you darling to come back to the Wolf

But I'll be around, yes I'll be around

To see what you're puttin' down

You know I loved you for myself

You know I love you, I don't love nobody else

Well, I'll be around, I'll be around

I don't want you runnin' around

Who´s Been Talking?

Which song turned your crank?

Which song is your favorite?

See results

“It’s the kind of music that is going to change the world..."

Howlin' Wolf on the Web

"You know, they called us 'coons'-said we didn't have no sense.

You gonna wake up one morning, and a coon's gonna be the President."

-"Coon on the Moon" from The Back Door Wolf, recorded in 1973

Gone, But Not Forgotten

Guestbook Comments

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    • CampingmanNW profile image

      CampingmanNW 4 years ago

      Gone but NOT forgotten for sure

    • Nightcat profile image

      Nightcat 5 years ago

      Awesome thanks so much for all the hard work and sharing Wolf with us. :)

    • hughgrissettsr lm profile image

      hughgrissettsr lm 6 years ago

      great lens! in my opinion, one of the top 5 all time electric blues artists! i have his chess box set and luv it.