Blues great Hubert Sumlin, 80, long known for his distinctively stinging lead guitar work with Howlin’ Wolf, died Dec. 4, 2011, in a Wayne, N.J., hospital.
Born in Mississippi and raised in Arkansas, Sumlin moved to Chicago in the mid-1950s at the invitation of Chester “Howlin’ Wolf” Burnett, for whom he played guitar nearly continuously for the next 30 years. Sumlin’s instantly recognizable sound is heard on many oft-covered electric blues standards written or popularized by Wolf, including “Killing Floor,” “Back Door Man,” “Spoonful,” “Smokestack Lightning” and “Goin’ Down Slow.”
After Wolf’s death in 1976, Sumlin continued playing with surviving member of Wolf’s band until the early 1980s and embarked on an acclaimed solo career that lasted until just before his passing.
Sumlin was praised highly and often for his lead guitar work, which Guitar World once described as “wrenched, shattering bursts of notes, sudden cliff-hanger silences and daring rhythmic suspensions.” Rolling Stone ranked him 43rd among its 100 greatest guitarists of all time.