On December 7th, 2011, we lost another great blues guitarist; Hubert Sumlin. In case you don’t know, Hubert was the guitarist for the great Howlin’ Wolf. Hubert joined Wolf at a very young age, hence he was only 80 years young when he passed. Wolf passed away in Chicago back on January 8th, 1976 and many thought that was the end of Hubert’s career, but he showed us all, didn’t he?
Hubert was a teenager when he first met Wolf. He had been watching wolf play from outside a roadhouse as he was too young to enter. So he piled a bunch of coke crates on top of one-another and climbed on top so he could get a better view when the crates gave away and he suddenly fell–landing at the feet of his surprised idol. Wolf then had a chair brought to the stage so Hubert could sit there and enjoy the show, up close and personal. Then Wolf actually saw that Hubert got home safely. Hubert ended up playing for Wolf for over 20 years. Wolf was the one who told Hubert to throw away his guitar picks and use his fingers which created a unique tone that become HS’s trademark sound.
Fortunately I had the opportunity to catch Humbert perform several years ago. I don’t think there will be another quite like him. He survived heart attacks, the removal of a lung and several wives and played pretty much up to the end. Since I can remember I’ve been a fan of Wolf’s and therefore, a fan of Hubert’s. He was a big influence on all of us who play electric guitar with a sense of feel, soul and tone taking precedence over speed and showy licks.
To learn more more check out, “Moanin’ At Midnight: The Life and Times of Howlin’ Wolf” by James Segrest and Mark Hoffman; and also Hubert’s biography entitled, “Incurable Blues; The Troubles and Triumphs of Blues Legend Hubert Sumlin” by Will Romano. There is also a great dvd which features Hubert prominently called, “The Howlin’ Wolf Story: the Secret Life of Rock and Roll.” RIP Hubert and thanks for all you gave us.