Howlin' Wolf
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Summary.
In Chicago, the dominant shouter was Chester "Howling Wolf" Burnett. A disciple of Charlie Patton in his native Mississippi, Wolf had already recorded How Many More Years (august 1951), Moaning At Midnight (august 1951) and Saddle My Pony (april 1952), and developed the symbiosis between his funereal vocals and Willie Johnson's heavy (and sometimes distorted) guitar riffs, the archetype of the guitar-voice dialogue in the electric age. Even more influential were the recordings with Hubert Sumlin on guitar, such as Evil Is Going On (may 1954), Smokestack Lightning (january 1956), based on Charley Patton's Moon Going Down, and his Killing Floor (august 1964), plus countless Willie Dixon songs. His savage, seismic and vetriolic blues implied not only a different message but a different way of communicating altogether. He was perhaps the first artist to figure out how to make thoroughly modern experimental music by emphasizing the authentic, most primitive elements of ancestral music; how to reconnect with the original creativity of the human soul.
(Translated by Nicholas Green from my old Italian text)

Howlin' Wolf (Chester Burnett) learned the blues from Charley Patton in his native Mississippi, where he worked as a farmhand until World War II broke out. After the war he relocated to Memphis as a disc-jockey, where he joined up with harmonica player James Cotton and pianist Ike Turner. He soon expanded the band to include piano, drums, guitar, and two harmonicas (either Junior Parker or Cotton, along with Wolf himself). On tracks such as How Many More Years (August 1951), Moaning At Midnight (August 1951), and Saddle My Pony (April 1952), Willie Johnson made his heavy and reverberating guitar riffs ring out; coupled with Wolf's mournful vocals, they came to form the archetypal dialogue between song and instrument in the electric era.

In 1952 Chess called him up to Chicago where he rivaled Muddy Waters for a long time, although he embodied a style of blues influenced by the amplified boogie of Memphis and further removed from its rural origins, based more on impetuousness than technique. Entrusted to Willie Dixon, and with the trusty Hubert Sumlin on guitar (who had succeeded Johnson in 1954), Wolf recaptured the Memphis spirit in Evil Is Going On (May 1954), Smokestack Lightning (January 1956, based on Charley Patton's Moon Going Down), and Killing Floor (August 1964). In 1961 he released the best Chicago blues record, Howlin' Wolf (Chess, 1961), which contains two songs written by Wolf Who's Been Talkin' (June 1957) and Tell Me (June 1957) and a sort of "greatest hits" of Dixon's recorded over several sessions: June 1960 (Wang Dang Doodle, Back Door Man, Spoonful), May 1961 (Down in the Bottom), June 1961 (Shake for Me, The Red Rooster), December 1961 (You'll Be Mine), etc.

In the early 1960s the Dixon-penned songs also betrayed the influence of rock'n'roll. His 1964 tour of Britain inspired most of the rock bands of that era (especially the guitarists, who learned much from Sumlin).

His grunts, murky, harsh, savage, replete with overt erotic libidos, carnal consummations, irrepressible lust and at the same time furious, haughty, bitter, and sarcastic hit every note with an impetuosity and exuberance as coarse and hot-blooded as it was lucid and sharp. The crude doses of vulgarity and caricature, the abrasive curses, vitriolic snarls, howls and debauched growls, were the result of the blues idiom's traumatic adaptation to the violent lyrical climate of the urban ghetto.

His seismic blues is the last great heroic testament of Black civilization.

Going Back Home (Syndicate Chapter) contains recordings from 1948-58.

Howlin' Wolf (Chester Burnett) imparo` il blues da Charley Patton nel nativo Mississippi, dove lavoro` come bracciante fino allo scoppio della guerra. Nel Dopoguerra si trasferi` come disc-jockey a Memphis, dove fece comunella con l'armonicista James Cotton e con il pianista Ike Turner. In breve amplio` la band fino a comprendere due armoniche (Junior Parker, o Cotton, piu` se stesso), piano, batteria e chitarra. In brani come How Many More Years (august 1951), Moaning At Midnight (august 1951) e Saddle My Pony (april 1952) Willie Johnson fece risuonare un pesante riverbero di riff chitarristico che, accoppiato al funereo vocalizzo di Wolf, divenne l'archetipo del dialogo fra canto e strumento nell'era elettrica.

Nel 1952 i Chess lo chiamarono a Chicago, dove rivaleggio` a lungo con Waters, pur rappresentando uno stile piu` compromesso con il boogie amplificato di Memphis e piu` lontano dalle origini rurali, basato piu` sull'irruenza che sulla tecnica. Affidato a Willie Dixon, e con il fido Hubert Sumlin alla chitarra (che era subentrato a Johnson nel 1954), Wolf ricatturo` lo spirito di Memphis in Evil Is Going On (may 1954), Smokestack Lightning (1january 956, based on Charley Patton's Moon Going Down) e la sua Killing Floor (august 1964), e pubblico` nel 1961 il miglior disco di blues di Chicago, Howlin' Wolf (Chess 1469, 1961), che contiene due brani di Wolf, Who's Been Talking (june 1957) e Tell Me (june 1957), e una sorta di "greatest hits" di Dixon registrati in diverse sessions: june 1960 (Wang Dang Doodle, Back Door Man, Spoonful), may 1961 (Down in the Bottom), june 1961 (Shake for Me, Red Rooster), december 1961 (You'll be Mine), etc.

Nei primi anni '60 i brani firmati da Willie Dixon tradivano anche l'influenza del rock'n'roll. Il suo tour del 1964 in Gran Bretagna ispiro` gran parte dei complessi rock dell'epoca (in particolare i chitarristi, che appresero molto da Sumlin).

I suoi grugniti, torbidi, aspri, selvatici, gravidi di libidini erotiche palesi, di consumazioni carnali, di lascivie irreprimibili, e al tempo stesso di rabbia, orgoglio, amarezza e sarcasmo, aggredivano ogni nota con un'irruenza e un'esuberanza tanto rozze e sanguigne quanto lucide ed argute. Le grevi dosi di volgarita` e di caricatura, le bestemmie abrasive, le smorfie al vetriolo, gli ululati e i ringhi debosciati, erano il frutto del traumatico adattamento della comunicativita` blues al violento clima lirico del ghetto metropolitano.

Il suo blues sismico e` l'ultimo grande testamento eroico della civilta' nera.

Going Back Home (Syndicate Chapter) contiene incisioni del 1948-58.

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