By James Calemine
The Chess Original Masters–Howlin’ Wolf/Moanin’ In The Moonlight–features the first two albums by one of America’s most respected bluesmen. Howlin’ Wolf–Chester Arthur Burnett–was born in Aberdeen, Mississippi, during 1910. Few musicians could rival The Wolf’s musical prowess. He was an imposing figure at 6’3 and weighing 270 pounds with a menacing voice.
Moanin’ In The Moonlight was The Wolf’s first album, and the recordings spanned over an eight-year period. Two of these tracks were from his early session work in Memphis around 1951. The rest of the songs from this album were recorded in Chicago.
All of the compositions on Moanin’ In The Moonlight were written by The Wolf except one. Classic tunes on this record include “How Many More Years”, “Smokestack Lightning”, “Evil”, “I Asked For Water (She Brought Me Gasoline)” and “Forty Four”–a song Little Feat’s Lowell George later adopted. The late Hubert Sumlin played guitar on almost all of these sessions along with Willie Johnson (guitar), Otis Spann (piano), Willie Dixon (bass) and Earl Phillips (drums).
The second album–Howlin’ Wolf–contained 9 songs written by Willie Dixon such as “Shake For Me”, “The Red Rooster”, “You’ll Be Mine”, “Wang Dang Doodle”, “Little Baby”, “Spoonful”, “Down In the Bottom”, “Back Door Man” and “Howlin’ For My Baby”. This self-titled album was released in 1962, and became one of the blues albums the Rolling Stones–among a long list of others–learned backwards and forwards. Play the songs and you’ll hear why…