Music / Howlin' Wolf
The badass of old blues.

Howlin' Wolf (born Chester Arthur Burnett, June 10, 1910–January 10, 1976) is an influential American blues singer and harmonica player, whose Guttural Growler voice inspired many Blues and Blues Rock musicians: Captain Beefheart, Cream, Iggy Pop, Frank Zappa, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Swans,...

His Signature Song is "Smokestack Lightnin'", though other songs, like "Back Door Man", "Spoonful", "Killing Floor", "How Many More Years" (often considered one of the earliest Rock & Roll songs), "Moanin' at Midnight" and "Evil" have also become blues standards.

His album Moanin' in the Moonlight was included in Rolling Stone's Rolling Stone: 500 Greatest Albums of All Time ranked #154, Howlin' Wolf was #223, while The Howlin' Wolf Album was #238.

In 1991 he was posthumously inducted in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame. His Signature Song "Smokestack Lightnin'" was included in the National Recording Registry in 2009 for being "historically, culturally and aesthetically important."

Albums with their own page

Tropin' in the Moonlight:

  • Alliterative Title: "Moanin' at Midnight", "Moanin' in the Moonlight".
  • Awesome Mc Cool Name: The stage name "Howlin' Wolf" was aptly chosen to describe his loud and growly voice.
  • Cover Version: "Back Door Man" was covered by The Doors on their debut The Doors. Soundgarden covered "Smokestack Lightnin'". "How Many More Times" on Led Zeppelin's Led Zeppelin was inspired by "How Many More Years?" and "Lemon Song"" from Led Zeppelin II was plagiarized almost note-for-note from "Killing Floor". A lawsuit from Chess Records in the early '70s and an out-of-court settlement have given him the credit he deserves.
  • Genre Savvy: Some of his success can be owed to the fact that he was very cognizant of the pitfalls that sunk many a bluesman and knew how to avoid them. He was already financially successful from his time in Memphis when he moved to Chicago and thus avoided many of the problems that come with Rags to Riches rises, he made a point of avoiding excessive drinking, drug usage, gambling, and fast women, he went back to school first to get his GED and then to take business and accounting courses (which helped him avoid another common pitfall, bad managers), and his wife was from an educated, urban background and was able to help manage his finances, letting Wolf pay his backing band one of the best salaries in the business plus benefits, so he could choose the best of the best, giving him a band full of top-flight musicians who were equally professional.
  • Guttural Growler: His deep and powerful growling voice sounds very impressive. Compare him to Captain Beefheart and you immediately hear that he copied his vocal style eerily perfect.
  • Howling to the Night: His singing voice was compared to howlin' wolves, thus earning him his stage name. A literal howling wolf is depicted on the cover of Moanin' in the Moonlight.
  • I Have Many Names: He was also known as Big Foot Chester and Bull Cow during his youth.
  • Intercourse with You: "Crawling King Snake" and "Back Door Man" are to be understood as referring to a phallic symbol and "a man having an affair with a married woman, presumably while the husband is away at war, using the back door as an entrance & exit symbolically".
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: A singer calling himself a howlin' wolf who released an album called "Wolf at your door"?
  • Scary Black Man and Scary Musician, Harmless Music: He was an imposing man, 6'3" and 275 pounds, and had a voice that made him sound like he was fifteen feet tall. His physical presence and raw, dark, intense vocal style was well known for scaring the living bejesus out of his audience. Yet in reality he was a nice and friendly person.
  • Self-Titled Album: The Howlin' Wolf Album.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Frank Zappa mentions him as an influence on his music in the liner notes of his debut album Freak Out! (1966). In a 1970 poll ("Faves, Raves & Composers In Their Graves") he named the single "Who Will Be Next?" by Howlin' Wolf one of his ten favorite records with the explanation: "Because it's very serious."
    • Iggy Pop sang the entire Fun House album by The Stooges with Howlin' Wolf's vocals in mind.
    • Swans dedicated "Just A Little Boy" to him.
  • Stage Names: His real name was Chester Arthur Burnett.