Howlin Wolf

There has never been a blues legend like Howlin’ Wolf. The Wolf, at six feet three and weighing in at close to 300 lbs in his salad days was the primary force behind the music’s final conclusion. Robert Johnson might have had more lyrical insight than Muddy Waters, while Robert Johnson could have been more confident and more dignified. King may have more technical knowledge, but no one can match his unique ability to rock the house to the foundation and simultaneously scare its patrons. Named after Chester Arthur, the 21st President, King was born in West Point (MS). Wolf grew up in a farming family. He continued to do so until he was 18 years old, when he met Charley Patton, a legend of Delta blues. Although he didn’t learn Patton’s intricate guitar technique well, Wolf learned two key components of his style from Patton. These were Patton’s distinctive growl and propensity to entertain and his unique voice. Aleck Rice Miller (Sonny Boy Williamson), Wolf’s half-sister Mary, was the main source of Wolf’s hard-driving and rhythmic style on the harmonica. He taught him the basics of the instrument. In the early 1930s, he was a Patton imitator and began playing the harmonica. Others recall him rocking the juke joint with a neck-rack harmonica as well as one of the first electric guitars ever seen. After serving four years in the Army, Wolf settled down in West Memphis, AR as a farmer and weekend musician. This was where Wolf’s music career began. He was a well-known radio personality in the community by 1948. Wolf hosted a 15-minute radio program on KWEM in West Memphis to advertise his local appearances. He interspersed his down-home blues and farm reports with like-minded advertisements that he had sold. The change in Wolf’s sound would soon alter everything else. Wolf’s show was electric and the listeners were able to hear it. Wolf had already put together his first band, which featured the explosive guitar playing of Willie Johnson. Johnson’s aggressive style perfectly suited Wolf and amplified its violence and nastiness. Willie Johnson’s importance cannot be understated in any discussion about Wolf’s early success, both live and over the airwaves. Wolf began recording in 1951 when Sam Phillips first heard him on his morning radio program. Phillips, who simultaneously leased the Memphis Recording Service studio’s results to the Leonard Chess in Chicago and the Bihari Brothers of Los Angeles, was astonished by the music Wolf recorded in Memphis. Howlin’ Wolf suddenly had two hits simultaneously on the R

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