Howlin’ Wolf: A Blues Legend’s Journey and ‘Worried About My Baby

Howlin’ Wolf – Worried About My Baby

Chester Arthur Burnett, (named after the 21st President of the United States) known the world over as Howlin’ Wolf, was born on this day, June 10, 1910 in West Point, Mississippi.
A chance meeting around the time of his eighteenth birthday with Charley Patton changed the trajectory of Wolf’s life. Wolf had Patton’s growling vocal down cold and built on Patton’s “anything goes” style of entertaining an audience.

A few years later, Rice Miller (Sonny Boy Williamson II) married Wolf’s half-sister and he taught Wolf the basics of the harmonica.

After a miserable four-year stint in the Army, Wolf took up farming in West Memphis, Arkansas in 1948, playing music on the weekends.

To promote his gigs, Wolf got himself a fifteen-minute show on KWEM where he did farm reports and read advertising that he sold himself and played a couple of songs live with his band.

From September of 1951 to February of 1952 Wolf recorded a few demos with Sam Phillips, at Phillips Sun Studio in Memphis. Phillips sent the demos to the Chess brothers in Chicago and they asked Phillips to do a full session. Wolf recorded two numbers, ‘How Many More Years’ and ‘Moanin’ at Midnight’ with the 78 becoming a two-sided hit. They sent a contract to Wolf, as did Bihari brothers, tipped off about Wolf by their teenage talent scout Ike Turner.

When the dust settled over who Wolf would record for, the Chess brothers had obtained exclusive rights to Wolf’s services and Wolf was Chicago bound.
Wolf, “I had a four-thousand-dollar car and $3,900 in my pocket. I’m the onliest one drove out of the South like a gentleman.”

When Wolf joined Chess Records, he had a stable of some of the finest session players in Chicago at his disposal and one it’s the finest producers and writers, Willie Dixon, to help him hone his songs.

This track was from the last session that Wolf did for the Bihari’s, (he’d already signed with Chess – so none of the seven songs saw release at the time. They were recorded in a private home in West Memphis, Arkansas on February 12, 1952.

Wolf takes the lead vocals and harmonica; backing him are his regular Memphis cohorts, Willie Johnson on guitar, Ike Turner on piano and Willie Steele behind the drums. The bass player remains unknown.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *