Howlin Wolf, Jody Williams, Hubert Sumlin and Drummer Earl Phillips
Listen to Hubert Sumlin on Killin Floor
The king of the outer space guitar, Howlin Wolf`s right hand man was born in his earthly form as Hubert Sumlin on November 16, 1931 in Greenwood, Mississippi. Starting out on the diddley bow, Hubert was eventually given a guitar by his mother, and soon became acquainted with classmate (and future harmonica star) James Cotton. Sumlin and Cotton became good friends, forming a band with murderous guitar mangler Pat Hare.
Sumlin first crossed paths with the Wolf when he attempted to sneak into a club where Wolf was playing and was promptly kicked out because he was underage. Undeterred, he then went around to the the back of the club where he stood on a wooden crate in order to watch Wolf through the window. When he lost control of the crate, fell through the window and landed on the floor of the club, Wolf told the club owner to get him a chair and let him stay.
Hubert and Cotton were soon burning up the jukes, and eventually landed a radio show on KWEM in West Memphis, Arkansas. In an interesting reversal of roles, it was now Wolf who began to watch Hubert with a strange fascination. When he headed north to Chicago, he took Hubert with him as his rhythm guitarist; Jody Williams and Willie Johnson initially occupying the lead spots. Eventually, Hubert took over lead duties and after an argument with Wolf one night, deflected to Muddy Waters' band, staying with Muddy about a year until, as legend tells it, the mighty Wolf showed up at Muddy's gig, marched up to the bandstand and told Muddy that Hubert was going to play guitar with him. Hubert and Wolf then split the scene, this time staying together for twenty years.
Sumlin's unpredictable twisting, start/stop/out-of-nowhere riffs and solos led him to be crowned the king of the outer space guitar. For further proof, check out "Killing Floor," "Shake For Me," "I Walked From Dallas," "Mr. Airplane Man," "Hidden Charms," and "Wang Dang Doodle."
Now in his seventies, Hubert never ceases to astonish and amaze.