May 21, 2008
Originally PUBLISHED February 11, 2005
I watched an interesting documentary today about one of my all-time favorite blues-men--- the legendary howlin' wolf. He was damned good. I learned a few amazing things from that show, because it had interviews with a lot of people who knew him, recorded with him, hired him and just plain loved his music.
I didn't know until today what a big influence he was on The Rolling Stones. They worshipped the man. I also didn't know that Wolf actually got rich off his music, which was unusual back in those days. Most of those old blues pickers pissed the money away or shot it up their arms. He didn't. He had a core group of musicians that he liked to play with and he actually paid them UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE to tide them over between gigs.
He was functionally illiterate until the age of 50, when he went to NIGHT SCHOOL to learn how to read and write. He married a good, Christian woman (Is that a match you'd expect? A guy who played honkie-tonks till the wee hours, in rooms full of booze and loose wimmen? And he hooks up with a fine, religious woman?) and SHE ran his financial affairs and did a damn good job of it.
Nobody they interviewed had a bad word to say about him. Oh, they said he was a tough bandleader--- he expected your ass to show up on time and play it HIS way, or he'd fire the shit out of you--- but I don't see anything wrong with that attitude and neither did the people who knew him well. And he could ENTERTAIN.
One of the clips they showed had him on a show called "Shindig" sometime back in the mid-sixties, when the Wolf was an old man. He still had more booty-moves than Elvis ever dreamed of. He still could rock the house. I ordered two of his CDs today. I had forgotten just how good he was.
If you get a chance to see that show, watch it. Howlin' Wolf was one of a kind.