Hubert Sumlin

Knowing when not to play, and simply leave an empty space, is an important aspect of guitar playing that seems to be lost on new guitarists who are often too easily impressed by flash No one would ever say that Hubert Sumlin wasn´t capable of busting out a blistering lick if he needed too, but he knew how to pick and choose his moments. In other words, he knew when not to play, so when he did, it really made your ears perk up.

He is probably best known as the side man of the one and only Howlin´ Wolf. As a kid, Hubert Sumlin first met Chester Arthur Arnett, (AKA Howlin´ Wolf) when he snuck into a performance at a juke joint. Both Arnett and Sumlin were born in Mississippi.

Howlin´ Wolf relocated to Chicago in 1954, and his long time guitar player Willie Johnson declined to make the trip. After a brief stint with guitarist Jody Williams, who had previously played with Memphis Slim, a then 23 year old Hubert Sumlin was called up and given the top guitar spot in Wolf´s Chicago based band. Sumlin´s playing features on the majority of the most popular Howlin´ Wolf recordings.

The relationship between Sumlin and Wolf was at times contentious, as he relates in this 1994 interview with Guitar World magazine.Hubert Sumlin

¨We were like father and son, although we had some tremendous fights. He knocked my teeth out, and I knocked his out. None of it mattered; we always got right back together.¨

Sumlin was even lured away for a while by Wolf´s Chicago rival Muddy Waters, who tripled Sumlin´s salary. Nonetheless, although many guitar players played live and recorded with Wolf (the legendary Buddy Guy being one of them), Sumlin´s understated playing is what´s most associated with the Chicago sound that Howlin´ Wolf was such an important part of. Sumlin would always come back to Wolf´s side, and the two played together until the later´s death in 1976.

At that time, Sumlin embarked on a solo career. His last solo effort was the critically acclaimed All About them Shoes. Released in 2004, the record featured guest performances by Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Levon Helm, and David Johansen. Sumlin passed away in 2011 at the age of 80. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards covered the costs of his funeral.

Knowing when not to play, and simply leave an empty space, is an important aspect of guitar playing that seems to be lost on new guitarists who are often too easily impressed by flash.

No one would ever say that Hubert Sumlin wasn´t capable of busting out a blistering lick if he needed too, but he knew how to pick and choose his moments. In other words, he knew when not to play, so when he did, it really made your ears perk up.

He is probably best known as the side man of the one and only Howlin´ Wolf. As a kid, Hubert Sumlin first met Chester Arthur Arnett, (AKA Howlin´ Wolf) when he snuck into a performance at a juke joint. Both Arnett and Sumlin were born in Mississippi.

Howlin´ Wolf relocated to Chicago in 1954, and his long time guitar player Willie Johnson declined to make the trip. After a brief stint with guitarist Jody Williams, who had previously played with Memphis Slim, a then 23 year old Hubert Sumlin was called up and given the top guitar spot in Wolf´s Chicago based band. Sumlin´s playing features on the majority of the most popular Howlin´ Wolf recordings.

The relationship between Sumlin and Wolf was at times contentious, as he relates in this 1994 interview with Guitar World magazine.

¨We were like father and son, although we had some tremendous fights. He knocked my teeth out, and I knocked his out. None of it mattered; we always got right back together.¨

Sumlin was even lured away for a while by Wolf´s Chicago rival Muddy Waters, who tripled Sumlin´s salary. Nonetheless, although many guitar players played live and recorded with Wolf (the legendary Buddy Guy being one of them), Sumlin´s understated playing is what´s most associated with the Chicago sound that Howlin´ Wolf was such an important part of. Sumlin would always come back to Wolf´s side, and the two played together until the later´s death in 1976.

At that time, Sumlin embarked on a solo career. His last solo effort was the critically acclaimed All About them Shoes. Released in 2004, the record featured guest performances by Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Levon Helm, and David Johansen. Sumlin passed away in 2011 at the age of 80. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards covered the costs of his funeral.

Author: Herb Winters

Herb Winters - Professional Guitarist 35 years - Hobbies Painting Dark Clouds

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