Hubert Sumlin the King of the Blues Guitar
One of the greatest gifts America has given to the world must surely be the emotional odyssey and rich legacy that is the everlasting music of the Blues. The blues could be anything – as long as it was honest – bitter, sweet, hot or cold; served up warm and friendly, or low down, dirty and mean. It could tear you down to nothing, knock you out, make you laugh, make you cry, scare the wits out of you, maybe even break your heart. Blues can be beautiful, blues can be tender. Blues could be harrowing and downright evil – filthy, rotten, no good, two bit, good for nothing. If there was ever one blues guitarist who could deliver on such a promise it would be Hubert Sumlin.
Hubert played guitar for blues monster Howlin’ Wolf from 1955 until Wolf died in 1976. With a guitar style characterised by sharp rhythmic note ricochet runs, plenty of air, Hubert’s unique style and vintage sound is packed full of colour and expression: a sparing, honest style influenced by the Mississippi finger style of Charlie Patton. You’ve heard him on all the Howlin Wolf classics – “Smokestack Lightning”, “Forty Four,” “Killing Floor,” “Going Down Slow,” “Hidden Charms,” and “Little Red Rooster”. Hubert’s place in the blues cannon is indisputable – it would be impossible to fill his shoes nor to overestimate the extent of influence – Hubert’s guitar playing really was the mustard – the real deal.
Have a listen to the mindblowing guitar sounds on Wolf’s 1968 version of “Spoonful”.