Ilya S. Savenok, Getty Images The sad news came across late Wednesday afternoon…
- Posted on Dec 5th 2011 11:35AM by Kenneth Partridge
Tim Mosenfelder, Getty Images
Born in Greenwood, Miss., Sumlin backed singer James Cotton in Memphis before relocating to Chicago in 1953. There, he joined forces with Howlin' Wolf, forging a partnership that would last until the legendary bluesman's death in 1976.
Along the way, Sumlin played on such enduring Wolf tracks as 'Smokestack Lightning,' 'Killing Floor' and 'Spoonful.' The latter two cuts were famously covered by Jimi Hendrix and Cream, respectively, two of the many rock acts to draw inspiration from his fiery fretwork.
Jimmy Page was also an avowed fan, as was Stevie Ray Vaughan, who once gave Sumlin a vintage Rickenbacker guitar. According to the New York Times, Keith Richards helped him pay medical bills, which were likely considerable, since he had a lung removed in 2004.
Sumlin continued performing until the end of his life, and last year, he and relative newcomer Kenny Wayne Shepherd earned a Grammy nomination for their 'Live! in Chicago' album. They didn't win, and Sumlin sadly went 0-for-4 at the Grammys in his lifetime.
Despite his lack of gramophone statuettes, Sumlin clearly left his mark. In a thoughtful tribute piece for the Chicago Sun-Times, Dave Hoekstra makes the case for his lasting importance.
"The 1953 summit of Mr. Sumlin and Wolf was to blues what the meeting of Scotty Moore and Elvis Presley was to rock just a year later," Hoekstra wrote.
Howlin' Wolf and Hubert Sumlin Perform 'Smokestack Lightning' in 1964
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