Howlin' Wolf

Born June 10, 1910 in West Point, Mississippi
Died January 10, 1976 in Hines, Illinois

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


Welcome to Big Daddy Rabbit's Howlin' Wolf Page.

Sam Phillips recorded Howlin' Wolf, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, and many others. Phillips knew that Wolf was the best of the lot. If Wolf is not on your short list of favorite musicians, read on. You have some basic catching up to do.

Wolf was born Chester Arthur Burnett in 1910. He didn't start recording, however, until he was 40 years old. Sam Phillips first recorded Wolf for RPM records, a Los Angeles label owned by the brothers Jules, Joe, and Saul Bihari. Soon Phillips was also sending Wolf recordings to the Chess brothers in Chicago, even though Wolf was supposedly under contract to RPM. Chess Records beat out RPM in releasing Wolf's first record, "Moanin' At Midnight" backed with "How Many More Years." Chess and RPM eventually agreed that Wolf would record only for Chess (RPM got exclusive rights to Rosco Gordon in exchange).

Wolf came North to Chicago in 1954. He had a great career with Chess Records, staying with the label until his death in 1976. Chess served Wolf well for most of his career. Toward the end of his life, however, they forced a few clunkers on him.

Because Wolf's career was so long (by blues standards, anyway), it sometimes surprises people to hear that he played with Charlie Patton and Robert Johnson. Wolf was, in fact, older than Robert Johnson.

Howlin' Wolf influenced countless numbers of rock groups -- from bar bands, who played just for fun, to the Rolling Stones, who invited Wolf to play on TV, and to the Animals, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin, and countless others. But don't get me wrong. Wolf is not great because he influenced groups like the Rolling Stones. Wolf is great because he is better than the Rolling Stones.

If you want to sample Wolf, the place to start is his second album, titled simply Howlin' Wolf. There is a rocking chair on the cover of the album, so it has come to be know as The Rocking Chair Album. You can find it in various formats on CD (a French import or combined with his first album Moanin' In The Moonlight). Also don't miss the music Wolf recorded before he came to Chicago. The Chess Memphis material is available on a variety of CDs. The RPM material is available only on the CD Howling Wolf Rides Again. Howling Wolf Rides Again is also my personal favorite.

I hope the pages below contribute to your enjoyment of Howlin' Wolf -- a giant of American music.

[Wolf Sessionography] [Wolf Index] [Wolf Singles]

If you love Wolf email Big Daddy Rabbit.