Sunday, June 20, 2010

Howlin' Wolf

On Shindig, with the Rolling Stones. The Shindogs (with James Burton) backing Wolf and Hubert Sumlin. 1965.
European TV appearence.
Newport Jazz Festival. Nobody booed Wolf for going electric.


Check from Sam Phillips to Chester Burnett (Howlin' Wolf), in time for Christmas, '51.

My favorite stamp.
Onstage at Silvios, Chicago, early 60's.
June 10 was Howlin' Wolf's centennial. That means 1ooth birthday for you morons out there. So I'm ten days late and two dollars short, as usual. All of Wolf's great Chess and RPM sides (and the un-issued recordings) are in print somewhere in the world today, so there's no excuse not to own them. If you want to know more about Chester Arthur Burnette, I highly recommend James Segrest and Mark Hoffman's Moanin' At Midnight: The Life and Times Of Howlin' Wolf (Pantheon,2004), as well as Don McGlynn's
2003 documentary The Howlin' Wolf Story, which is available on DVD and also turns up on cable TV quite a bit these days. I thought I'd post the above clips and pix as my own personal tribute since Howlin' Wolf was the guy that really turned me on to great music. It was the top clip, when the he appeared on Shindig with my then heroes-- the Rolling Stones sitting worshippfully at his feet that really turned my six year old head inside out. It wasn't until six years later that I found a copy of his Evil (Chess, which was a 70's re-issue of his first album Moanin' At Midnight) in a .99 cent bin, a record that would really change the way I heard music for ever.
By the time I saw Wolf live (1974) he was sick and old, he couldn't get out of his chair and his set was only four songs (about 15 minutes) long, but I'm still glad I went, just to hear him make that sound. It seemed to come from someplace deep inside of him and rumbled out of him like the beginning of an earthquake. It was more than a mere voice, it was a wonder of nature.
For you beginers I suggest you pick up the CD of his first two Chess albums (released on one CD)- Moanin' At Midnight/Howlin' Wolf (aka The Rocking Chair album), then get the two volumes of Bear Family Memphis recordings done at Sun Studio-- Memphis Days Vol. 1 and 2, and then pretty much everything else he did except the London Sessions, This Is Howlin' Wolf's New Album...He Doesn't Like It (aka the "Birdshit album" as Wolf put it) and the stupid "super blues jam" LP's is worth owning.

24 comments:

Gemini Spacecraft said...

A friend who grew up in Sherman, TX in the 50s recalls first hearing Wolf on the radio at night, when the border stations would boost their signals, and what a life-changer that was. Me? A crappy cassette dub of the Crown LP first got me going on the Wolf. I still love that part of the record when he introduces the band. "THere's WIllie JOhnson, just whuppin some guitar!"
Isn't the Chess Masters LP "More Real Folk BLues" mostly Sun stuff? Chess Masters reissue LPs: the poor man's ticket!

Mark Mattos said...

Really great post, thanks!

You can see more great photos of Chicago blues performers by the same photographer, Raeburn Flerledge, in the book "Chicago Blues". Might be out of print but worth tracking down, the stuff is truly remarkable.

The Hound said...

"Isn't the Chess Masters LP "More Real Folk BLues" mostly Sun stuff?"

No, only Just My Kind, Work For Your Money and I've Got A Woman were from the Memphis days, the other tracks were early (1954-6) Chicago sides, and some of his best I might add-- You Can't Be Beat, I'm The Wolf, Rockin' Daddy, Neighbors, Who Will Be Next, etc.

"I still love that part of the record when he introduces the band. "THere's WIllie JOhnson, just whuppin some guitar!" "

House Rockin' Boogie! I'd pay big bucks for the RPM 45 of that one! BTW two of the tracks on that original Crown LP aren't even Wolf, they're Joe Hill Louis.

Gemini Spacecraft said...

"BTW two of the tracks on that original Crown LP aren't even Wolf, they're Joe Hill Louis."

Oh yeah, now I see, those cpl of instros, 'Backslide Boogie' and 'Twisting & Turning'. I never knew that before. Crazy.

Cavorting with Nudists said...

"When I heard Howlin' Wolf, I said 'This is for me. This is where the soul of man never dies.'" -- Sam Phillips

The Hound said...

"When I heard Howlin' Wolf, I said 'This is for me. This is where the soul of man never dies.'" -- Sam Phillips"

Phillips actually stole that quote from the bible, can't remember where it is, but it's in there. I think the electro-shock made Sam think he was Charlton Heston.

Cavorting with Nudists said...

I dunno about the Bible, but I'm pretty sure there's a gospel song titled "Where the soul of man never dies." It's the juxtaposition with "This is for me" that makes it quotable.

jesse Sublett said...

Hey Daddyo, thanks for that great post. I'm not sure I've seen some of those gig photos before. I agree with everything you said and then some (except I think Charlton Heston thought he was Sam Phillips, sometimes). I am an Austin-based author & musician. In my first crime novel, the Wolf's "Do the Do" was a key clue in the murder of a doomed guitarist. I host the annual Howlin Wolf Birthday tribute here at the Continental Club, which has become my favorite gig of all time. More info on that on my blog. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for those crazy pics! I've never seen most of them! My first Wolf record likewise was the Evil Chess LP circa 1970. Bought it in a mall record store in Miami when I was about 13 years old. I've been hooked ever since! By the way check out this site for some more Wolf photos...
http://howlingwolfphotos.com/
-Barry Soltz

The Hound said...

"By the way check out this site for some more Wolf photos...
http://howlingwolfphotos.com/"

Thanks, there's also some amazing Wolf shots (including one in a cotton patch) in the collection of Ernest C. Withers' photos Memphis Blues Again, one of the best music photographers of all time. I'd jump on one now as it's gone out of print and the prices of photo books tend to rise very fast (Amazon has used copies for around $60).

Anonymous said...

cool post! any tips on where to find a good version of "tired of cryin'"? i've always dug that track since hearing it on an old cassette of a hound show, but i don't see it around much. any facts on recording date/circumstances of this track? it sounds like later period stuff, but it stills blows my mind everytime i hear it. thanks!

Nick

The Hound said...

"any tips on where to find a good version of "tired of cryin'"?"


I always played it off of the old From Early 'Til Late bootleg (Blue Night 073-1667), it's live from '68. I always assumed it eventually appeared on one of MCA's various box sets, it's on the out of print Charley Complete Recordings (disc six) which is the only one I ever bought. Not sure where else you can find it. If MCA hasn't released it let me know and I'll post it.

Johnny Pierre said...

Hey Hound -- thanks for the Wolf post-- he holds a special place in my life -- I was a senior in High School & was lucky enough to catch him at Paul's Mall right before he passed on...I remember shaking hands with him (he had hands like to coal shovels) & he bent over & whispered, "drink whiskey, get friskey"...sound advice.

Anonymous said...

thanks, hound!

Nick

The Hound said...

" any tips on where to find a good version of "tired of cryin'""

It's on the MCA/Chess H. Wolf Vol. 2:Ain't Gonna Be Your Dog double CD.

Anonymous said...

"pretty much everything else he did except the London Sessions, This Is Howlin' Wolf's New Album...He Doesn't Like It (aka the "Birdshit album" as Wolf put it) and the stupid "super blues jam" LP's is worth owning. "

Thanks. I was actually wondering what you were doing the 10th - but then I remembered...

If you do a search of blogs in space you'll find that "London Sessions" and "Birdshit" are often recommended as starting points for listening. Very depressing. Or infuriating. Or even pitiable. As you say there is no excuse for not buying the rest of the catalogue, and the Chess/Charly Complete Recordings 7 CD Set is a must.

Myself, I first bought "Change My Way" some 30 years ago after hearing "Just Like I Treat You" on the radio. Found a 70s re-issue of the Crown LP soon after.

I've long wondered whether there are more acoustic recordings in the Chess vaults from the late 60s.


/R

Donna Lethal said...

My favorite singer. I love the look in his eyes in that second to last pic. There's a great shot of him leaning over the railing on his porch that is truly menacing.

Ken in Denver said...

Nice! The highlight of my recent trip to Chicago was visiting the Chess Studios and standing in the room where all that great music was made.

Shakin spear said...

Yea I visited the old Chess studio when I was in Chicago I was just drivin down South Michigan looked over and there was 2120 Holy shit .I stopped in and a young black man proceeded to tell me that It don't make sense(If you can't have peace ) was the best song that Willie Dixon ever wrote and loads of misinfo about the place and they had some cheap ass Kramer hanging on the wall with a letter from Hillary Clinton. Bleech!!I'm glad the thing is still standing but they might as well tear it down the way they treat it.

The Hound said...

"I stopped in and a young black man proceeded to tell me that It don't make sense(If you can't have peace ) was the best song that Willie Dixon ever wrote and loads of misinfo about the place and they had some cheap ass Kramer hanging on the wall with a letter from Hillary Clinton. Bleech!!I'm glad the thing is still standing but they might as well tear it down the way they treat it."

Actually, the Chess studio was used mostly for demos and rehearsals, most of what we think of as the classic Chess sides were done at Universal Recorders (no longer there but they had an L.A. studio that might still be in biz). Universal is also where Vee Jay recorded Jimmy Reed and most of their other sessions and was used by Mercury, and most of the better indies as well as the Chess brothers.

RichardSibello said...

First time I heard Howlin' Wolf - I was in a junk shop and found an old Chess 78 rpm of "No Place To Go". I brought it home, placed it on my turntable, and when his voice came out I literally backed away from the speakers in fear and awe.

The only other time I backed away from speakers was when I heard Archie Brownlee do his INCREDIBLE screams at the end of "Someone Watches".

The Hound said...

"The only other time I backed away from speakers was when I heard Archie Brownlee do his INCREDIBLE screams at the end of "Someone Watches".

In that same class I would put Julius Cheeks screams at the end of the Sensational Nightingales' Burying Ground. It's a shame more people don't know about the great gospel shouters of the 50's, someone should re-issue the entire Peacock gospel catalog.

www.navarra-3d.com said...

Thanks so much for the post, quite helpful piece of writing.

viagra online said...

What an awesome singer! this guy was the most awesome guy I've ever seen playing the guitar!

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