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Music / Howlin' Wolf

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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 McCoolname: The stage name "Howlin' Wolf" was aptly chosen to describe his loud, 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?"; "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.
  • Guttural Growler: His deep, powerful growling voice sounds very impressive. Compare him to Captain Beefheart and you immediately hear that he copied his vocal style eerily perfect.
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  • 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 15 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.
    • Lucinda Williams mentions him in "Lake Charles": We used to drive through Lafayette to Baton Rouge/in a yellow El Camino, listening to Howlin' Wolf.
  • Stage Names: His real name was Chester Arthur Burnett.


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