Howlin' Wolf first started working with Hubert Sumlin when Sumlin was still a teen, and not terribly confident on guitar. Sumlin played second guitar to Willie Johnson. Where Willie Johnson was aggressive in his playing and his life and would musically go toe to toe with the massive Howlin' Wolf, Sumlin sat back and remained quiet.
Smokestack Lightning. The guitar riff was unique and catchy and fit perfectly with the song and Wolf's pain stricken tale. The guitar riff would soon be pilfered by Dale Hawkin's own teenage guitarist, James Burton, to create the iconic Suzie Q. Bands like The Yardbirds, Manfred Mann, Creedence Clearwater Revival and a host of others would also mine the guitar riff with great success.
I got a chance to see Hubert Sumlin perform when he was but a spry 75 years old. His skills had diminished, that's for sure. Guitarist GE Smith performed with him and brilliantly would fill a missing part as soon as Sumlin would stumble. But still, at 75, he was a better guitarist with far more style than the vast majority of the strat-n-a-hat SRV clones that fill every blues jam around the globe. I got to shake his hand and see him smile and hear him play. How damn cool is that?
Thank you Hubert Sumlin!