Howlin’ Wolf aka Chester Burnett was born on 6.10.10 in White Station Mississippi to Leon “Dock” Burnett and Gertrude Jones. White Station was a tiny railroad stop between Aberdeen and West Point MI in the hill country of Mississippi. Although he was many miles from the “delta” young Chester was fascinated by music as a young boy. He sang in the chior at the White Station Baptist church where Will Young, the stern and unforgiving great-uncle preached.
Early in life, his parents separated and his father moved to the Delta. Chester’s mother left him with Uncle Will who treated him harshly. One childhood friend of Chester said, “Will Young was the meanest man between here and hell”.
Not only was his relationship with his uncle difficult, but his dealings with his mother were troubled as well. Gertrude spent much of her adult life as a street singer and made a living selling hand written gospel songs to passer-bys for pennies. She eventually disowned young Chester as she felt he played “the Devil’s Music”.
At 13, Chester ran away from his unlce Will and headed to the Delta to rejoin his father who lived and worked there with Will’s 1/2-sister and step-siblings. they lived on the Young and Morrow Plantation where Chester’s father worked. It was here that he was introduced to Delta blues and learned his music trade at the feet of local musicians like Charley Patton and Sonny Boy Williamson, as well as Robert Johnson Son House and Willie Brown when they came through town.
The rest as they say is history.
Here’s a clip from 1964 with Hubert Sumlin and Willie Dixon – Smokestack Lightning
At 6’4″ 270, the Gibson looks like a toy in his hands. He just sits down and calls out the key of A and they’re off…..
All Hail the Howlin’ Wolf….