A stellar blues guitarist from West Memphis, Arkansas, Hubert Sumlin learned his craft on a home-spun broom-wire instrument before he got his hands on a store-bought guitar. Sumlin did a brief stint with future harp legend James Cotton before Howlin' Wolf got wind of his talent up in Chicago and sent a summons for him to head North in 1954. Deferential and reserved, Sumlin held his own, playing back-up for the ferocious Wolf. He honed his chops diligently every night on the bandstand, and eventually moved from rhythm guitar duty to lead guitar, developing a darting, unpredictable style that perfectly complimented Wolf's powerful performance. Though Wolf proved to be a formidable character, Sumlin stood by his mentor for two decades; his unique slashing guitar style became an indispensable part of Wolf's sound on immortal recordings like "Shake for Me," "Three Hundred Pounds of Joy," and "Killing Floor." "Hidden Charms" was especially remarkable for Sumlin's spellbinding solo break.
He made only a few forays out on his own before Howlin' Wolf's death in 1976, but in recent years Sumlin has allowed his solo talents to shine, stepping up to the microphone as a vocalist on recordings for Black Top and Blind Pig. The Wolf may be gone, but Sumlin's guitar continues to speak with mesmerizing force.
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