Personalities | Howlin’ Wolf | Fifties | Jazz & Blues

(Guitar, harmonica, vocals, 1910–76)

Chester Arthur Burnett was born in White Station, Mississippi. Inspired by Charley Patton, Wolf earned his living as a farmer in the West Memphis, Arkansas area and was strictly a weekend performer until he was almost 40 years old. He got a radio spot in 1948 and the sound of that band, which was electric rather than acoustic, heightened interest in his work. He began to record in 1951 for Sam Phillips, who sold his masters to both Modern Records and Chess Records. Ultimately, Chess won out and Howlin’ Wolf recorded for the label from 1952 until his death.

While Wolf was a capable guitarist and harmonica player, it was his intense, growling voice that dominated his performances – it was one of the great blues voices of all time. Unlike many of his blues peers, Wolf was a flamboyant entertainer who could rock the house. He was considered a leading light of the Chicago blues scene for many years.

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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz & Blues, founding editor Howard Mandel


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