Happy Birthday, Mr. Burnett!

One hundred years ago today, a bluesman was born. Unlike the bluesmen of the early Delta blues, he played electric guitar, and was damn good at it. He played harmonica, and he was damn good at it. And despite a husking rasp, no other voice conveyed better displayed a bluesman’s need for religious salvation while enjoying wallowing in sin — like an angel trying to smuggle Satan back into Heaven.

Like most bluesmen, his music would influence the coming of rock and roll, and — aside from Bo Diddley — no other bluesman made an easier transition from the past to the present. With selections like “Spoonful,” “Smokestack Lightnin’,” and “Back Door Man,” he secured himself as a force to be reckoned with — and he had the stature to back him up too.

His name was Chester Arthur Burnett. But he was known better, as Howlin’ Wolf.

In honor of his centennial birthday, here’s a small selection of his work.


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