Remembering Hubert Sumlin (1931-2011)

When Hubert Sumlin passed away earlier this month, it truly marked the end of a significant era.

You can a strong case that Hubert Sumlin was the most influential guitarist of his generation.  His near 20 year association with Howlin’ Wolf, they laid the blueprint of what every major band would follow for nearly 50 years: the inseperatable dynamic between lead singer and lead guitarist.  Think about it: Without Wolf & Sumlin, there’s no Jagger-Richards, Jeff Beck-Rod Stewart, Jimmy Page-Robert Plant, Steven Tyler-Joe Perry, it goes on and on.

As a guitarist, he was a direct influence on Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Vernon Reid (Reid considered .  Listen to Sumlin’s work on the classic ‘Killin’ Floor’ and you’ll hear the basis of what would later become the sound for The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

After Howlin’ Wolf passed away in 1976, Sumlin continued to perform as a solo act and as a featured guitarist for some of the artists that he influenced (Levon Helm, David Johansen and Keith Richards) and contemporaries (Pinetop Perkins, James Cotton and Sunnyland Slim). Even the loss of a lung didn’t stop Hubert from performing.  He simply strapped himself to an oxygen tank and continued to play ripping leads.

Always with a smile and an upbeat attitude, Hubert Sumlin was a true gentleman to the end.

Do yourself a favor and pick up any of the classic Howlin’ Wolf recordings or his solo work.  You’ll hear one of the best guitarists ever.

Rest in peace Hubert.



About earldouglas

Author of the book, 'Black Rock Volume 1', which is available now at and as an e-book on Barnes & and Executive Director of the Black Rock Coalition New York Chapter. Photographer, music fan, Yankee fan, supporter of the arts!
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1 Response to Remembering Hubert Sumlin (1931-2011)

  1. Rob Perkins says:

    Great article, imagine all of our classic rock heros without the help of the blues greats. Especially Tyler / Perry. Joe talks about just this in the film that I produced about David “Honeyboy” Edwards called “Honeyboy and the History of the Blues.”

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