Personalities | Howlin’ Wolf | Roots of Rock

(Guitar, vocals, 1910–76)

Howlin’ Wolf was born Chester Burnett in West Point, Mississippi, and learned the blues from Charley Patton and harmonica from Sonny Boy Williamson, who married his half-sister. After the Army, he began performing around West Memphis, Arkansas, wowing fans with his aggressive vocals and newfangled electric guitar. Promoting himself on local radio, he was heard by Sam Phillips, who cut Wolf’s first sides at Phillips’ Memphis Recording Service. Phillips leased the results to Chess, and Wolf was on his way.

For Chess, Wolf had hits with ‘Evil’ and ‘Smokestack Lightnin’’. But his career headed to a new level in 1960, when he was teamed with writer Willie Dixon. The combination produced a spate of mid-1960s hits, including ‘I Ain’t Superstitious’, ‘Back Door Man’, ‘Spoonful’ and ‘Wang Dang Doodle’. Wolf toured Europe and inspired The Rolling Stones, whose version of ‘The Red Rooster’ (‘Little Red Rooster’) reached No. 1 in Britain. His material was also recorded by The Doors, Cream and Jeff Beck. Later solo albums were not as successful, and in the 1970s his health began to fail. He died in a Veterans’ Administration Hospital in 1976.

Styles & Forms | Roots of Rock
Personalities | The Ink Spots | Roots of Rock

Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, general editor Michael Heatley


An extensive music information resource, bringing together the talents and expertise of a wide range of editors and musicologists, including Stanley Sadie, Charles Wilson, Paul Du Noyer, Tony Byworth, Bob Allen, Howard Mandel, Cliff Douse, William Schafer, John Wilson...


Classical, Rock, Blues, Jazz, Country and more. Flame Tree has been making encyclopaedias and guides about music for over 20 years. Now Flame Tree Pro brings together a huge canon of carefully curated information on genres, styles, artists and instruments. It's a perfect tool for study, and entertaining too, a great companion to our music books.

Rock, A Life Story

Rock, A Life Story

The ultimate story of a life of rock music, from the 1950s to the present day.

David Bowie

David Bowie

Fantastic new, unofficial biography covers his life, music, art and movies, with a sweep of incredible photographs.