For more than 20 years Hubert Sumlin’s guitar was right behind Howlin’ Wolf on stage and on record. ‘Killin’ Floor’, ‘Smokestack Lightnin’, ‘Spoonful’ and ‘Ain’t Superstitious’ all had Hubert’s razor-sharp guitar lines behind Wolf’s rumbling vocals. Hubert played the diddley-bow back in Greenwood MS when he was a kid and he teamed up with local boy James Cotton to play the Blues. Wolf called him to Chicago in 1954 and they developed an instant musical rapport as Hubert developed his lead-guitar chops. Things went wrong off-stage between the two men after a couple of years and Hubert switched to Muddy Waters‘ band for a while, but when he came back to Wolf, it was to be for life.
A catalogue full of Chicago
classics followed, as Wolf dominated the studio and toured the world. Hubert cut some vocal tracks with Sunnyland Slim
and Willie Dixon
in East Germany in 1964, but a solo career did not materialise for Hubert until after Wolf’s death in 1976 when he cut the ‘ Groove’ album for the French Black and Blue label. Further albums for Blind Pig and Black Top showed Hubert’s increasing vocal confidence, especially on ‘Heart and Soul’ from 1989. It was his 1998 album ‘I Know You’ for AcousTech, however, that showed him to be a genuine star of the Blues. Backed by Sam Lay’s drums and Carey Bell’
s harp, Hubert seemed very comfortable as he mixed standards with his own songs, stopping off to pay tribute to some Chicago legends like Jimmy Reed
and Elmore James,
as well as his old boss, The Wolf.
Hubert Sumlin Discography
With some killer licks, Hubert makes a case for being considered one of the truly great exponents of Chicago Blues guitar.
I KNOW YOU
Hubert had another fine solo outing with ‘About Them Shoes’ in 2005, with help from Keef Richards, Eric Clapton
, Levon Helm, David Johansen and his long-time friend James Cotton. In 2011, Hubert passed away from heart failure in a New Jersey hospital at 80 years of age.
‘Little Hubert’ playing with Sunnyland Slim back in the day;