This is the latest from The Bluesmobile’s C.C. Rider, who spends her life venerating the founding fathers of the blues. She’s walked the crooked highways of this singing country to resurrect the voices of the past. With the dirt of the Delta on her hands, she sleeps in the shadow of the giants on whose shoulders popular music now stands.
(June 10, 1910 – January 10, 1976)
Chester Burnett stood six foot three in size 17 shoes. Oh, he cut a mean figure off stage. And on stage? He became something else all together – somewhere between a superhuman and a feral beast. No surprise they called him the Howlin’ Wolf.
People who saw Wolf say there wasn’t anything like it. Ozzy biting heads off bats had nothin’ on the Wolf. Just the look in his eyes could scare the pants off a concert-goer. He’d spin on his back, somersault over his axe, even climb up the velvet curtains on stage and slide back down ‘em. All the while howlin’ and playin’. But for Howlin’ Wolf, the name came before the music.
My grandfather give me that name. He give me that name. He used to sit down and tell me tall stories about what the wolf would do, cause I was a bad boy you know. So he told me the story about how the wolf done to Little Red Riding Hood. Every time the girl would ask him, “Mr. Wolf, what make your teeth so big?” He said, “The better I can eat you, my dear.” And said, “What make your eyes so red?” “The better I can see you my dear.”
And then they finally killed the wolf and drove him up to the house, you know, and showed me the wolf. And I told him it was a dog. He said, “No, that’s a wolf.” I said, “Well what do a wolf do?” He said, “He howls, he said ooooh.” You know, and so I got afraid of this wolf. And every time I’d kill some of my mother’s chickens she said “Ooooh,” so that it would scare me you know. And it made me mad cuz they callin’ me Wolf.
So they just kept on callin’ me Wolf, and I got to the place I didn’t care what they called me, they can call me Panda if they wanted, you know what I mean, but ever since. Cuz you know how it is, some people when they find out that you get mad about something they always slip that in – that Wolf, and it upset me you know what I mean. I didn’t know it was gonna be a great name for me.