Wednesday, January 11, 2012

50 Years Ago Today: Howlin Wolf Releases Rockin Chair

At 6 foot 6, "300 pounds of muscle and man" , Howlin' Wolf was literally a giant in the Chicago blues scene. But his recording career didn't begin until the age of forty-one. He worked as a farmer, a fertlizer salesman and as a disc jockey.

Fifty years ago on this day he released his most influential album, Howlin' Wolf ( also known as the Rockin Chair album for its cover). Famous songs--most written by Willie Dixon-- include "Little Red Rooster", "Wang Dang Doodle", "Back Door Man" and the Wolf's version of "Spoonful". This is one of the albums all the skinny British blues fanatics studied. In fact just about every British blues band had a Howlin Wolf song in the repertoire. The Stones covered "Little Red Rooster". The Yardbirds, Manfred Mann and The Animals did "Smokestack Lightnin". Cream covered "Spoonful". You get the idea. The album comes as part of a two-fer with Wolf's first LP, Moanin' in the Moonlight, recorded by Sam Phillips.
In 1964, Howlin' Wolf toured Europe as part of the American Folk Blues Festival. Below, one of the performances in England. Little Hubert Sumlin is playing lead guitar. Sunnyland Slim is on piano. Willie Dixon is playing bass and Clifton James on drums.

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