Born: November 16, 1931, Greenwood, Mississippi
Died: December 4, 2011
Photo Credit: Francoise Digel firstname.lastname@example.org
A long-time member of the legendary Howlin’ Wolf Band, guitarist Hubert Sumlin went on to influence musicians including Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards, and a whole generation of rock guitarists. His family moved to Hughes, Arkansas, after his father was caught bootlegging. Sumlin began playing the guitar as a child. His mother paid $5.00 for the guitar—money she worked a week to earn. He initially wanted to play jazz, but soon grew interested in the blues—music he heard in the house parties and streets of his hometown. While still a youth, he began hanging around juke joints and dance halls, listening to blues greats who came through town. One night while standing on a Coca-Cola crate, he listened to Howlin’ Wolf through an open window. Someone then snatched the crate and sent Sumlin tumbling onto the stage. Wolf prevented the manager from throwing Sumlin out and instead let him sit on the stage with the band. As a teenager, Sumlin moved to Helena, Arkansas, and then to Memphis, where he played with harmonica player James Cotton. In 1953, Sumlin made his first recordings with Cotton for Sun Records. While in Memphis, Sumlin took the opportunity to sit in with Howlin’ Wolf. After Howlin’ Wolf moved to Chicago in 1954, he sent for Sumlin to join the band. Sumlin’s angular, rhythmically adventurous guitar perfectly complemented Wolf’s biting harmonica and impassioned, howling vocal style. Sumlin’s guitar defined the group’s sound. Sumlin remained in the band until Wolf’s death in 1976. Subsequently, Sumlin emerged as an elder statesman of the blues, recording while playing festivals and clubs around the world, often appearing with Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, and other rock stars. In his later years, he received numerous awards.