90-minute director's cut (30 minutes of additional footage not seen in theaters)
Rare footage of Howlin' Wolf presented by the Rolling Stones on Shindig performing "How Many More Years?"
First presentation of previously unknown or unavailable performance footage
Drummer Sam Lay's rare, never-before-seen home movies of stars of the Chicago Blues clubs from the early '60s
Newly discovered photos of Howlin' Wolf and his band
First filmed interview with Howlin' Wolf's family
Exclusive interviews with Hubert Sumlin, Billy Boy Arnold, Marshall Chess, and many others
He got to the very soul of the blues
January 25, 2004: DVD SPOTLIGHT: "The Howlin' Wolf Story" (Bluebird)
By Robert Hilburn
In the kickoff volume of a promising Bluebird blues series titled "When the Sun Goes Down," director Don McGlynn gives us a winning portrait of Howlin' Wolf.
If you care about the blues, you'll likely find this smart, evocative documentary of one of the field's most charismatic stars infinitely more valuable than all of Martin Scorsese's recent series of blues films on PBS.
Why did Scorsese ever think that the best way to honor this invaluable musical art form was to ask some of his fellow directors to give us their personal take on the blues? What he came up with, episode after episode, felt either distressingly narrow or sterile.
Here, director Don McGlynn does it right.
In the kickoff volume of a promising Bluebird blues series titled "When the Sun Goes Down," he gives us a winning portrait of a singer so commanding that you can understand why the Rolling Stones sit at his feet in awe as they watch him perform on a TV show in the '60s (a segment in the DVD).
Chester Arthur Burnett, one of six children born in 1910 to a Mississippi farmer and his wife, had such a raw, primal vocal style that it's no wonder he billed himself as Howlin' Wolf. Even though he never had enough hits to become as much of a household name as Muddy Waters and other contemporaries, he enjoys enough respect among rock tastemakers to have been voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
There isn't a lot of footage of the Wolf available, but McGlynn makes good use of what he found, expanding the story with lots of still photos and interviews with friends and relatives,
"When I heard him, I said, 'This is for me. This is where the soul of man never dies,' " Sam Phillips writes in the liner notes. He's the Memphis record producer whose list of discoveries stretches from the Wolf to Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. "The greatest sight you could see would be Howlin' Wolf doing one of those sessions in my studio …. His eyes would light up and you'd see the veins on his neck, and buddy there was nothing on his mind but that song."
But it's not just the intensity of the Wolf's voice that makes him so thrilling. He was also blessed with a magnetism and humor that helped him stand out in any situation, whether he was on stage or simply sitting behind the microphone at a radio station. This is the first authorized film about Burnett, who died of a heart attack in 1976, and it is marvelous.
Delta singers who traveled north and pioneered urban electric blues (their supposed rivalry is the subject of one of this DVD's bonus features), Wolf was a big, imposing man with an inimitable, booming voice and a lasting influence on generations of rock & rollers—all of which comes across in the 90-minute film. Not only do we get a history of his life (told by family members, musical associates like longtime guitarist Hubert Sumlin, and Wolf himself) that's far more entertaining than the norm for this genre, we also get some history of the blues in general. And not only do we hear snippets of Wolf's music, we hear several complete songs, including some priceless filmed performances. Quite simply, this one should become a touchstone for documentaries of its kind. —Sam Graham
Howl! Wolf Lives!, October 30, 2003
Reviewer: A viewer from NY
In a time when we are bombarded with rapid-fire cutting and frustratingly brief snippets of footage it is refreshing to see a documentary that allows us to spend some time with it's subject matter— in this case Chester Burnett AKA Howlin'Wolf. I have never seen this much footage on this legendary performer in any one place. If you're a fan of Wolf or the blues, I cannot recommend this film more highly. This DVD is like a Howlin' Wolf performance- you get your money's worth!
The Awesome Howlin' Wolf..KING of THE BLUES comes ALIVE, October 24, 2003
Reviewer: A viewer from Brooklyn, NY
I saw a festival screening of this AMAZING Blues documentary....why it wasn't included in the lame MARTIN SCORCESE'S
PRESENTS : THE BLUES series I do not know (perhaps cause most of the series WAS so lame!)....maybe because the filmmakers are REAL blues scholars and serious documentarians of American Music ..unlike the dilitants and celebrities who were choosen to directed most of the Scorcese films.(Clint Eastwoood, please, give me a break...not much relevance to blues in his flabby 90 minutes!)
HOWLIN WOLF is no doubt one of the most awe-inspiring performers and he is shown in some really amazing and rare clips throughout his career...plus,( Where did director Don McGlynn and Producer Joe Lauro FIND this amazing footage??).. they somehow are able to also expose the sensitive HUMAN side of this blues god!....a REAL indepth look at one of the true all time legends of the Blues.
a dvd for all regions, January 13, 2004
Reviewer: raul f sanjurjo villaverde from La Coruña Spain
What can a poor boy add to all those ravishing reviews? Nothing, just that i got my copy yesterday, and found that, contrary to what the product details say, the disc is not region-protected. So if you had cold feet because you might have to watch it in the computer or simply you could not watch it at all, forget it! Your dvd player will receive it with open arms (i take for granted your player understands NTSC). so you have no excuses now, go and spend whatever currency you have in your wallet, it's as good as the other guys say! Oh, and the same applies to 'The American Folk Blues Festival 1962-1966', all regions, baby!
A man among men, November 24, 2003
Reviewer: martin w beck from Indiana
Sam Phillips once said of Howlin' Wolf...."This is it, this is where the soul of man never dies" If that statement is true, then this DVD is where the soul of man lives. The Shindig performance alone is worth the price of admission, but there are many other filmed highlights and insights into this great artist. Highly recommended
The Wolf Lives!, October 30, 2003
Reviewer: eugene j. casey from Sag Harbor
This is a concise, affectionate and well-researched documentary on one of the true giants of the blues. It includes contemporary interviews with Wolf's family and friends and bandmates (including the great Hubert Sumlin) and rare footage of Wolf in his element (including some great full color shots of south side Chicago night clubs, as well as the famous Shindig show, introduced by the Rolling Stones.) It's too bad Wolf didn't live long enough to reap the rewards his rival Muddy Waters did. Still this film goes a long ways to putting Wolf's career in perpective, i.e., among the greats.