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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

Date: 10/2/2002
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

Date: 9/10/2002
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.

Message To The Young
From: Rdmathers@hotmail.com

Date: 8/13/01
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.


Howlin' Wolf
From: Paul Goldman

Date: 4/19/01
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 clubs.

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?
From: csgibney@hotmail.com

Date: 4/5/01
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?
From: diana-joe@ga17.fsnet.co.uk
Date: 3/22/01
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 cmozi7@yahoo.com

Date: 3/3/01
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!

From: ESJ4710@aol.com
Date: 2/12/01
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

Stage reading of a play "SmokeStack Lightning"
From: James

Date: 2/5/01
I recently saw a reading of a play titled from Howlin's "Smokestack Lightning" here in New York. The brother who wrote it was a top 5 finalist for a playwrights prize for the play. It's not about Howlin per se, but uses his music to set the pace of the play that takes place during the 50's in a black Texas jukejoint. There was references to Howlin, Muddy, and Son house. Very bizarre tale with voodoo, mask, and surreal images. It's suppose to be another reading around March 2001 to get it ready for s stage production. Maybe somebody should contact the brother. I will surely tell him about this site.

From: Steve Stoddard
Date: 1/10/01 (The 90th anniversary of Wolf's death)
RIP Chester Arthur Burnett, we miss you! I was lucky enough to see Howlin' Wolf at the "Midwest Rock Festival II" at the Milwaukee County Stadium in 1970 and although I was only about 16 years old then and it was in a stadium, I'll never forget seeing and hearing him. http://www.angelfire.com/hi2/sblack

Howlin' Wolf - Kansas City Kansas, 1972
From: Glen.Blokzyk@msl.com
Date: 12/10/00
Early in the summer of '72, I was walking by the Red Dog Inn in Lawrence, Kansas. I noticed a crude, mimeographed sign (remember those?) in the window - "Appearing soon - Howlin' Wolf at the Veteran's Memorial Hall in Kansas City Kansas. I couldn't believe my eyes. I had never thought I would have a chance to see Wolf - I had heard he was sick, and didn't think he was touring anymore. The night of the show I got to the hall, bought my ticket, and went inside. Veteran's Memorial was a good sized hall, I had seen Johnny Winter there a while back, and I knew it was a good hall. When I walked in, I couldn't believe my eyes. Even though it was only 20 minutes before the show, there were only about 150 people in the auditorium. As I walked down the aisle to my seat, I passed a group of people seated about halfway to the back. There were three guys, and this big, beautiful black woman, dressed like a queen. The three men were fawning over her and passing silver flasks of cognac back and forth. They were ready for the show... I sat down and waited. Eddie Shaw and the band came out and played a couple of instrumentals, and then the Wolf came out. He was a massive, yet almost graceful man, who was clearly not feeling well. He walked to center stage, and looked out at the 'crowd'. He was clearly disappointed in the size of the crowd - the promoter had really botched it. He looked almost crestfallen as he said "I don't people treat me this way - don't know if I want to play." We all sat ther in silence - we all felt so bad. Suddenly from the back of the hall came the voice of the big black woman in the fur and jewels - " Play for ME, Wolf!!!" He looked out into the crowd and spotted her - he chuckled and turned to the band and they went into their show. They only did about 45 minutes - Wolf leaned on a stool most of the night. Even though he was the leader, Shaw was clearly running the show. Flashes of the old Wolf came out though,- Hubert must have played something Wolf didn't like. Wolf wheeled around and Huberts eyes got wide and he rocked back on his heels. Sumlin was in great form as always. At one point in the show Wolf tried to do a crawl, but he was just too tired. We shuffled back to his stool shaking his head sadly. Before one number he apologized for not being able to play his guitar ( as if WE minded... and asked if it was all right if he played a little harp for us. Well, it sure was, we thought! Wolf was a fine (and underrated) harp player. By the end of the night he had made us feel as if we were a crowd of 1000 people. It was a great night for us, and sad, too. He passed away four year later. Wonderful night.

From: DERIK GRANZIERA, BRAZIL newderikgranziera@globo.com

Date: 11/21/00
this man is king of blues 1000 pliss friends e mail me derik granziera brazil esse cara e otimo eu adoro seu son thank's

used to listen to Howlin Wolf at Pepper's Lounge in 1964-5
From: Anonymous
Date: 11/21/00
When I was a student at the University of Chicago in the mid-60's, some of us went to hear Howlin Wolf's band every week (I think it was on Wednesday's) at Pepper's. When the band played and he sang "Louise" with his huge voice, it was just like being under water, with waves of intense sound and feeling washing over the room, and red lights around the band stand. I still remember those nights as one of the high points in a life of listening to music.

Since we were regulars, we got to know him a little bit and sometimes we would buy him a drink or his son would buy us one. Sometimes he sat by us between sets. We were a little shy, and didn't know what to call him, when we talked. One young woman in our group, who played and sang accoustic folk guitar, called him "Mr. Wolf." One time when we were talking with him, she said, "Mr. Wolf, you must just love playing in this small club, where the audience is so close to you and people can dance and really enjoy your music this way." He replied that well, really, he liked it best when he played in that big concert hall in London, with all those people in the audience. That was his favorite place. (We guessed it paid a lot better, too. I don't think there was any music charge at Pepper's, and the beers were only about 25cents, so what could they have been paying Mr. Wolf and his band?)