Chester Arthur Burnett was born in 1910, in Mississippi. Known as a ‘difficult child’ he earned the nickname “Howlin’ Wolf”. Five years later, his father bought him a guitar and he began playing for country functions. During the early 1930′s, he met seasoned blues entertainers including Sonny Boy Williamson II and Robert Johnson. Sonny Boy Williamson later became the Wolf’s brother-in-law and taught him to play the harmonica.
After serving in WWII, he began working as a disc jockey for a radio station in Memphis where he met Sam Phillips who arranged Wolf’s first recording session for Sun Records. In 1953, Wolf moved and settled in Chicago. He met Muddy Waters as they vied for position in Chicago’s clubs and at Chess Records.
Through the 50′s and 60′s, Wolf was working regularly in the Chicago clubs such as the “708″ and “Syvio’s Lounge” and was frequently active at Chess recording sessions. During this time, Wolf’s songs began to take on new energy and moved with a Rock ‘n’ Roll pace, and he began touring not only the United States but also Europe.
In 1971 he recorded the “London Sessions” album with Eric Clapton, Stevie Winwood, Ringo Starr, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts, English blues musicians who were almost 40 years his juniors. English bands like The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, and Cream had revived blues and combined it with rock elements. Responding to the view that such bands were “mere vampires, sustaining themselves on the stolen essence of other men’s lives,” Muddy Waters responded that “[b]efore the Rolling Stones, people didn’t know anything about me and didn’t want to know anything. I was making records that were called ‘race records’. Then the Rolling Stones and other English bands came along, playing this music, and now the kids are buying my records and listening to them.” Howlin’ Wolf died in 1976, one of the greatest bluesmen of them all…Check out this vintage video from the 1960′s that captures some of his soulfulness: