The 15 Greatest Blues Musicians of All Time: Howlin Wolf

By Thomas Swan on Dec 26, 2015 01:25 AM EST

One could rank the fifteen best blues musicians of all time in some kind of order, but then the onus would be on the number rather than the stories each told or the lives they led, so this list will not be burdened by numbers. Instead, it will be all about the musicians. The first one we meet is Chester Arthur Burnett, more famously known as Howlin' Wolf.

As a musician, Howlin' Wolf was a showman. He commanded the stage with his size and showmanship. His music was primal and sexual. It was rock long before rock found out you didn't have to go steady with a girl to get into her pants. Not to mention, it was felt by many of his peers that Wolf was an underrated guitarist.

Born June 10, 1910 in White Station, Mississippi, Howlin' Wolf was the big man of the blues, literally. At 6'3" and 275 lbs, the Wolf was not a man to be trifled with. According to Wikipedia, Howlin' Wolf had a rough childhood, "Burnett's parents broke up when he was young. His very religious mother, Gertrude, threw him out of the house while he was a child for refusing to work around the farm; he then moved in with his uncle, Will Young, who treated him badly. When he was 13, he ran away and claimed to have walked 85 miles (137 km) barefoot to join his father, where he finally found a happy home within his large family."

Wolf would begin his recording career in 1951. If you watch the NFL, you have heard one of his songs. His biggest hit, "Smokestack Lightning" was featured on a Viagra commercial. All Music described Wolf's style this way, "Wolf was the primal force of the music spun out to its ultimate conclusion. A Robert Johnson may have possessed more lyrical insight, a Muddy Waters more dignity, and a B.B. King certainly more technical expertise, but no one could match him for the singular ability to rock the house down to the foundation while simultaneously scaring its patrons out of their wits."

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TagsHowlin' Wolf, Great Blues Musician, Smokestack Lightning, Howlin Wolf Charley Patton, Howlin Wolf's Blues

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