American Heroes

Jesse Christen

Jesse Christen

Howlin’ Wolf, whose real name is Chester Burnett, was a big man.

Howlin’ Wolf didn’t start his recording career until he was in his early 40s, an age that most artists are washed up by.

He says he patterned his sound after the legendary blues artist Charlie Patton.

“It was he who started me off to playing,” Wolf said. “He took a liking to me, and I asked him would he learn me, and at night, after I’d get off work, I’d go and hang around.”

By 1948 Wolf formed his first “electric” blues group with James Cotton and Matt Murphy.

In 1951 Wolf cut his first records for Sun Records in Memphis, Tenn.

During the ’50s into the early ’60s Wolf was Chicago’s craziest performer. Where his rival Muddy Waters would play it cool onstage, Wolf would moan and howl, climb up curtains and crawl around in the audience. Due to his massive size and possessed soul when performing, he was quite a site.

His high energy take on the blues became the blueprint that rock ‘n’ roll developed from. Rockabilly performer Dale Hawkins said that his song Suzy Q (covered by Credence Clearwater Revival) was a just a country boy trying to be Holwin’ Wolf.

’60s artists like the Rolling Stones, Cream, Jimi Hendrix and every other band of importance all covered his songs.

Wolf died in 1976. His legend lives on today. He had a voice like the devil and a stage act that had more energy than new “extreme” bands.

So next time you complain that there’s nothing good at the music store, go pick up a copy of Moanin’ in the Moonlight and see what you’ve been missing.