Blues Then and Now - The History of the Blues (Chapter 10, page 1 of 5)


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Chapter 10

While in Chicago and still in command as the top blues entertainer, Muddy Waters was constantly put on alert by the many drifters that came up north from the Delta area to try and steal his thunder. One such drifter was a six-foot-six, 300 pound harmonica player who called himself Howlin' Wolf. His true name was Chester Burnett from West Point, Mississippi. As a youngster he worked on the p1antation with his parents. By the time he was in his early teens he heard blues singer Charlie Patton and immediately fell in love with the music he was hearing.

Patton took Howlin' under his wing and taught him how to play thy guitar. Howlin's father observed the interest and enthusiasm his son had for music that he bought him his first guitar at the age of 19. Wolf took to the road and was singing and playing his guitar throughout the south. It was in Arkansas where Howlin' met up with Alex 'Rice' Miller (Sonnv Boy Williamson) as he called himself, and 'Rice' taught him how to play the harmonica. Wolf further advanced his music education when he came in contact with Tommy Johnson and Jimmy Rodgers, a white yodeler.

`Sonny Boy' Williamson married Howlin's half-sister, which brought a closer tie with his new brother in-law. 'Sonny Boy' was touring the southern circuit with Robert Junior Lockwood, another blues singer and guitar player and they took Wolf along so that he may gain more experience in traveling on the road. Wolf was eager to learn. He observed every move 'Sonny Boy' and Lockwood made and he tried emulating them both. Howlin' even tried to copy Charley Patton's guitar solos, but he soon realized that he was not in the same ball park with any of them. So, Howlin' used his physical appearance to capture the: attention of the audience.

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