The world has lost a legend as the great Hubert Sumlin passed away at the age of 80 several days ago. Most famously known for playing guitar with Howlin’ Wolf, Hubert had one of the most distinct styles heard in the blues. He was born in Mississippi and raised in Arkansas. He begged his mother for a guitar when he was a boy and at age 10 he snuck into a local juke joint to see the great Howlin’ Wolf perform. He stood on milk crates to see the show and fell through the club’s window. About to be thrown out for being underage, Howlin’ Wolf insisted he stick around and even took him home to his mother to ask that he not be punished for sneaking around. The rest is history.
Hubert and James Cotton started their own band and when Howlin’ Wolf heard of this he asked Hubert out to Chicago to play guitar for him. He started out using a guitar pick but after Howlin’ Wolf complained that Hubert was playing over his singing, he developed a finger picking style that soon became his trademark. His softer tone was the perfect accompaniment for Howlin’ Wolf to sing over. After Wolf passed in 1976, Hubert carried on with Eddie Shaw and the Wolf Gang to showcase the legacy of Howlin’ Wolf and the deep blues sound of Chicago.
Below is a great clip of the young Hubert Sumlin playing guitar with Sunnyland Slim on piano. This video shows Hubert’s natural, free-flowing style which he will be remembered for. Watch them perform “Come On Home Baby” from the American Blues Festival in Germany, 1964.