Chester Arthur Burnett
Also known as Howlin’ Wolf
June 10, 1910(1910-06-10)
White Station, Mississippi,
January 10, 1976 (aged 65)
Hines, Illinois, U.S.
Electric blues, Chicago blues
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter
Instrument(s) Vocals, guitar, harmonica
Hubert Sumlin, Willie Dixon
Chester Arthur Burnett (June 10, 1910 –
January 10, 1976), better known as Howlin’
Wolf, was an influential American blues sing-
er, guitarist and harmonica player.
With a booming voice and looming physic-
al presence, Burnett is commonly ranked
among the leading performers in electric
blues; musician and critic Cub Koda de-
clared, "no one could match [Howlin’ Wolf]
for the singular ability to rock the house
down to the foundation while simultaneously
scaring its patrons out of its wits." Many
songs popularized by Burnett—such as
"Smokestack Lightnin’," "Back Door Man"
and "Spoonful"—have become standards of
blues and blues rock.
At 6 feet, 6 inches (198cm) and close to
300 pounds (136 kg), he was an imposing
presence with one of the loudest and most
memorable voices of all the "classic" 1950s
Chicago blues singers. Howlin’ Wolf’s voice
has been compared to "the sound of heavy
machinery operating on a gravel road". Al-
though the two were reportedly not that dif-
in actual personality,
edged, slightly fearsome musical style is of-
ten contrasted with the less crude but still
powerful presentation of his contemporary
and professional rival, Muddy Waters, to de-
scribe the two pillars of the Chicago Blues
representing the music.
Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice
Miller), Little Walter Jacobs and Muddy
Waters are usually regarded in retrospect as
the greatest blues artists who recorded for
Chess in Chicago. Sam Phillips once re-
marked of Chester Arthur Burnett, "When I
heard Howlin’ Wolf, I said, ’This is for me.
This is where the soul of man never dies.’ " In