Who's Been Talkin'?
Wolf was a larger-than-life character, and over the
years, we've heard many, many amazing and amusing stories
about him. This page is full of stories about the Wolf, all
submitted by the kind and creative visitors to this site.
They're organized in order of submission, with the newest
first. If you have a story about Wolf you'd like to share,
please visit our Who's Been
Talkin' submissions page.
©1968/2001 Sandy G. Schoenfeld
Bull Cow Moanin' at Midnight
From: Sherman Kassof
I was living in North Oakland-South Berkeley California
(very near where I live and practice law now) in 1969-1970,
enjoying the whop-dee-doo freedom of the hippy era without
really being one. I was lollygagging around the Berkeley
campus ever so slowly inching towards graduation. One
afternoon, I saw Wolf, sitting in a chair on Lower Sproul
Plaza playing for a small crowd. I didn't know much of blues
in those days, so someone had to tell me who he was. He was
a big guy sitting on a small chair with his feet set wide
apart, wearing a striped shirt with a flowered tie. He look
much like the sketch of him on the cover of the London
sessions album. A peeve of mine is the unjustified bad press
that the London Sessions album has gotten over the years. It
is a very solid "fathers and sons" production. The intimacy
and respect between Wolf and the rock and roll cast of
characters is clear and passionate. Note particularly the
conversation on "Little Red Rooster" [("you ain't got
nuth'in to do but just stop at the top)", great advice for
everything from real estate to relationships]. Red Rooster,
Built for Comfort and Wang Dang Doodle are superlative.
You'd never know that he was quite ill at the time, as I
found out recently on the Hubert Sumlin website. But for
pure power and musical invention, nothing can touch
"Smokestack Lightening". I travel around in Southern
Louisiana and Mississippi every now and then. Hope to make
it to West Point one of these days.
Howlin' Wolf, White Boys, and 12-Bar Blues
From: Ron Garrett
I met "Howlin Wolf" after a brilliant outdoor concert at
Woody Hall on the SIU Carbondale campus (in October '72 I
believe it was). His health wasn't that good and the outdoor
air had been cold and damp and strained his voice. I and a
friend that also idolized him started talking to him as his
band packed up the equipment. He made the statement, strange
having already done the London Sessions with Eric Clapton in
'70, "White boys don't know how to play twelve bar blues."
Upon which two of us white boys, myself and Jim Hirsch,
showed him we were not only his fans, but had been listening
to the music. He laughed and said, "Okay, now I know three
white boys that can play twelve bar blues. One not bad, and
two not worth a damn and you can figure which you'd be." We
all laughed and begged him to do a song with us. We played
harmonica and we played guitar, and we all sang, "Might be a
spoonful of diamonds, might be a spoonful of gold..." (and
of course we passed a whiskey bottle). Wolf was funny,
gracious to a fault, awfully kind and indulgent with a
couple of white boys from the sticks who knew acid rock
licks much better than their blues riffs, and for three
hours he shared his life with us till the campus police made
us all leave at 2AM. We had no idea how ill he really was or
what hanging out with us in the cold and damp was probably
costing him in discomfort. What a performer! What a nice
guy. Seemed if you loved the blues it was good enough for
him. I will never forget him.
Hey gang, I used to do a blues radio show in Boston many
years ago, and played an album by Wolf called "Message to
the Young" - 1971 - Chess. I have been looking for this
record for 6 years since I left that station. Does anyone
know where I can get it? MCA was no help.
From: Paul Goldman
As a kid growing up in the South many years ago, I began
to listen to Blues around the time I was in high school. I
quickly became familiar with the music of Howlin' Wolf. Many
years later, having moved to the Boston area, I was
fortunate to see Howlin' Wolf perform live at Boston area
In the Summer of 1973, I was on a cross-country camping
trip, driving around the perimeter of Chicago one day. I
came up behind a van towing a small trailer. On the back of
the trailer was a painted sign that said "Howlin' Wolf Blues
Band - Chicago". It was hard for me to believe that Howlin'
Wolf and his band might actually be in the van. Since I had
no particular schedule, I decided to follow the van in hopes
that it might soon stop. After a few minutes, the van pulled
into a rest area and I followed it in. As I pulled up to the
van, some of the band members were helping Howlin' Wolf out
of the van. He was clearly sick. I introduced myself to him,
told him that I had loved his music since I was very young,
and that I had seen him perform in Boston previously. Even
though he was not feeling well (he told me he had kidney
problems), he and his band members were very gracious and we
talked for awhile. He said he would be back in Boston in the
Fall. In the Fall, he did return to Boston and I saw him
perform. During a break in the show, I went up to the stage
and introduced myself to him. He remembered me from the rest
area outside of Chicago. What an honor it was to meet a man
who contributed so much to the Blues!
Re: What else is there to listen to?
I'm only a youngster at 20, but Ive been listening to
the blues for a while. Ive always found peace in Howlin's
music. The man is true to his audience and doesnt hold back
and at the same time he keeps it simple. I dont think I've
heard the london session. Clapton and the other English
Gents. dont impress me that much compared to the originals.
They hold back way too much. So I dont see much point in
listening to them.
What else is there to listen to?
Only been in to the blues for a few years, but ive been
through most of the big names and nothing comes close to
Howlin' Wolf except Robert Johnson. I got bored of the
standard stuff Muddy always played, but some of the sounds
and tones Wolf and his bands used are just hypnotic! A lot
of blues musicians seem to always play the twelve bar stuff
but Wolf always did something different with each track.
Personally ive always hated the London sessions, very dull,
and the way Clapton and the rest of those pretenders spoke
to him at the start of 'Red Rooster' i find very patronising.
What id truley kill to hear would be recordings of Wolf
singing with Robert Johnson. I understand these were never
recorded, but surely that wouldve been the greatest blues
album ever. There voices really would of played well
together what with Johnson sweet yelps and Wolfs gut
renching growls. Its easy to see where Captain Beefheart and
Tom Waits got there sound from. Nice to see the site, nice
to know there are people out there who still feel so
strongly for this music, personally i dont know why anybody
would listen to anything else.......
The blues abroad
From: chris mozingo
Hi all, I'm a huge blues fan and was a dj for blue magic
wmsv in Starkville MS while in college. With my passion for
the blues comes a love and admiration for the Wolf.
Inarguably, you will not find the rawness and intensity in
anyboby else's music. Many afternoons after classes (MSU), I
would drive the country roads of West Point/White Station MS
listening to Chester. At the time I believe I was searching
for some link to the Wolf. Anything. Maybe I'd run into a
relative or something. It was great therapy. Anyway, as a
student of the blues I have encountered many stories of
bitterness regarding rock musicians, especially from the UK.
Understandibly so, I'm on our guys side. They were often
cheated out of royalties, credits, and so forth. I've read
that sonny Boy, upon returning from England in the 60's
said, "they want to play the blues eral bad...... and they
play the blues, REAL BAD!" Also, I read once that Wolf
referred to THE LONDON SESSIONS as 'dogshit.' I do own this
album. It is not my favorite. It does lack the rawness and
intensity that defines Chester's music. This album does seem
to appeal to newcomers who aren't familiar with Wolf's
catalog. Just some thoughts.
Any idea where i can pick up a copy of ALICE'S REVISITED? I
would love to hear it, as I've never even seen a copy of
this recording. Thanks for the website....GOOD WORK GUYS!
First saw Wolf at a one-day blues fest at County Stadium
in Milwaukee, 1969. He came riding from the dugout on a
moped to the stage, after the band had done their obligatory
(but still great) "Ode To Billie Joe", featuring Eddie Shaw.
This was before the heart attacks and the dialysis machine,
and Wolf was in his late great prime. After a rousing set,
Wolf announced a short break, but be back, with "Little Red
Rooster and Spoonful too." I went to get a hotdog, and there
he was, all 6'5" and about 270 pounds. He extended his right
hand, smiled, and said, "how ya doin?". I was floored, taken
aback, whatever you wanna call it, and I'll never forget it.
I saw him 5 times after that, and he was always good, but
that first time I'll never forget. I've talked to Hubert
Sumlin too, if anybody out there wants to hear about that,
let me know. Thanks for reading this, John