Saturday, November 06, 2010

The Howlin' Wolf Story, Part 1

Don McGlynn's Howlin' Wolf Story -- The Secret History of Rock & Roll (2003) provides an excellent overview of the life and times of Chester Arthur Burnett (6/10/1910-1/10/1976). The highlight for me -- home movie footage shot by drummer Sam Lay in Chicago -- fantastic!

The Wolf's arc from a rough Mississippi childhood to self-sustaining Chicago-based career is well-traced, as is his tragic relationship with his mother, a spiteful woman who hid behind Christianity and castigated the blues as Devil's music (and she wasn't kidding). Along the way to Memphis and his first recording sessions at Sun Studios (when in his early forties), Wolf plays alongside such blues luminaries as Charley Patton, Son House and Robert Johnson; he does two years of Army service during WWII; has steady success in West Memphis, Arkansas, and even a half-hour radio show. "And the peoples went for what I was puttin' down," Wolf observes earlier. In 1951, when he cuts "Moanin' at Midnight" and "How Many More Years," his life experiences fuel his artistry. He notes of the blues at one point, "A person hever had a hard time, they never will know what the blues are anyway." The 50s cuts endure as powerful avatars of electric blues. From the first recordings to his death, he's got twenty-five more years to go.

To be continued . . .

Today's Rune: Wholeness.

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