Hubert Sumlin, died on Sunday 3 December of heart failure in New Jersey. He was 80. The longtime guitarist and collaborator with Howlin’ Wolf

HubertHubert Sumlin, died on Sunday 3 December of heart failure in New Jersey. He was 80. The longtime guitarist and collaborator with Howlin’ Wolf  played on such classic songs as ‘Spoonful’, ‘Smokestack Lightnin’ ‘Killing Floor and influenced generations of guitarists, and almost wrote the book on electric blues guitar

Hubert Sumlin, was a mainstay of the Chicago blues scene, was ranked highly on Rolling Stone’s list of the best guitarists (click to read).  He was nominated for four Grammy awards and inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 2008.

“He always played the right thing at the right time,” said Jimmy Page, one of Sumlin’s many admirers. Sumlin, regularly played his 1955 Gibson Les Paul Gold-top guitar without a pick, was a founding inspiration for Keith Richards (who reportedly helped Sumlin with his medical bills in recent years). Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa were among others. Hendrix, inspired by Sumlin’s piercing lead guitar on Wolf’s ‘Killing Floor’ played it famously at the 1967 Monterey Festival..

Hubert Sumlin was born in Mississippi and raised in Arkansas and moved to Chicago to play with Howlin’ Wolf, with whom he had a loyal but often contentious relationship. In 1956 Sumlin was hired away for a brief stint with Wolf’s biggest rival, Muddy Waters. After Wolf’s death in 1976, Sumlin continued to perform with the rest of Wolf’s band under the name the Wolf Gang. In addition to his work as a sideman, he released more than a dozen albums under his own name, most recently About Them Shoes (2004), on which Keith Richards was a guest.

The guitarist was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2002 and had a lung removed. In recent years Sumlin continued to perform when his health permitted.

 

Video
‘LIVING THE BLUES – HUBERT SUMLIN TALKS AND PLAYS’

FROM ROLLING STONE’S GREATEST GUITARISTS EVER

“I love Hubert Sumlin,” Jimmy Page has said. “He always played the right thing at the right time.” During more than two decades playing alongside Howlin’ Wolf, Sumlin always seemed to have an almost telepathic connection to the legendary blues singer, augmenting Wolf’s ferocious cries with angular, slashing guitar lines and perfectly placed riffs on such immortal songs as “Wang Dang Doodle,” “Back Door Man” and “Killing Floor.” Sumlin made such an impact, in fact, that Wolf’s greatest rival, Muddy Waters, even hired him away for a stint in 1956. Sumlin, who passed away in 2011 at age 80, played until the end, sometimes turning up onstage in the company of such acolytes as the Rolling Stones; Eric Clapton and the Allman Brothers. “You try to tell a story, tell it right, you live the story,” Sumlin once said of his hugely influential guitar style. “It may be a little faster or a little classier, but it comes down to you either playin’ the blues or you ain’t.”

Key Tracks: “Smokestack Lightning,” “Spoonful,” “Killing Floor”

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