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Cultural Percussionist

Hubert Sumlin Day

Hubert Charles Sumlin (November 16, 1931 – December 4, 2011) was a Chicago blues guitarist and singer, best known for his “wrenched, shattering bursts of notes, sudden cliff-hanger silences and daring rhythmic suspensions” as a member of Howlin’ Wolf‘s band. He was ranked number 43 in Rolling Stones “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”.

Sumlin was born in Greenwood, Mississippi, and raised in Hughes, Arkansas. He got his first guitar when he was eight years old. As a boy, he met Howlin’ Wolf by sneaking into a performance.

Wolf relocated from Memphis to Chicago in 1953, but his longtime guitarist Willie Johnson chose not to join him. In Chicago, Wolf hired the guitarist Jody Williams, but in 1954 he invited Sumlin to move to Chicago to play second guitar in his band. Williams left the band in 1955, leaving Sumlin as the primary guitarist, a position he held almost continuously (except for a brief spell playing with Muddy Waters around 1956) for the remainder of Wolf’s career. According to Sumlin, Howlin’ Wolf sent him to a classical guitar instructor at the Chicago Conservatory of Music to learn keyboards and scales. Sumlin played on the album Howlin’ Wolf (called the “rocking chair album”, with reference to its cover illustration), which was named the third greatest guitar album of all time by Mojo magazine in 2004.

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