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The young BB King
BB King

I first met him in 1949 at a place out from Memphis called Black Fish Lake. A guy called Willie Ford had a club there called the Top Hat and Wolf had been playing for him. I think Wolf had a death in his family, so he had to go back to where he lived at the time. While he was gone, Willie Ford hired me to play in his place. I was there for two weekends before Wolf came back. Willie Ford liked us both, so he didn’t want to fire either of us, but he couldn’t afford both of us, so he let us both play that night. Wolf played and I played after him. He played harmonica in a rack and guitar, but what I remember most was his voice. I’m telling you, I’ve never heard anybody sing like Wolf did that night. He sang so well till I almost cried. And Willie Ford would ask the people to choose. He’d put his hand over my head and they’d say, “Yeah!” Put his hand over Wolf’s head and they’d say, “Yeah!” Finally, after a long time, he decided that they selected me over Wolf. But I told Wolf I didn’t want the gig—he could have it. That’s how good I thought he was when I first met him...

He was one of a kind. Nobody I heard before him or after him has had that fantastic delivery—that certain something in his voice that seemed like a sword that’d pierce your soul when he’d sing. Wolf was already a great singer and musician when I first met him. To my mind, he’s one of the greatest ever. We’ll never see another like him.

–From the Introduction to Moanin’ at Midnight: The Life and Times of Howlin’ Wolf