During his hard-driving performances, Chester Arthur Burnett sang out with such intensity that legendary musician Jimmie Rodgers nicknamed him “Howlin’ Wolf.” He was born in West Point, Mississippi on June 20, 1910, and brought up on a cotton plantation. There he was exposed to the traditional music of the Mississippi Delta. Howlin’ Wolf was taught and heavily influenced by Charley Patton, who was considered the model Delta blues performer. And although he did master the guitar and harmonica, his main instrument was always his powerful voice.
Howlin’ Wolf began his professional career when he was quite young, and performed all over Mississippi in the 1920s and 1930s. In the 1940s he moved to the flourishing blues scene in Arkansas. His band there included James Cotton and Little Junior Parker, both of whom gained recognition on their own.
In 1951 he recorded his first record, “Moanin’ After Midnight,” which became a big hit and led him to Chicago. Howlin’ Wolf, along with Muddy Waters, turned Chicago into the blues capital of the world. Fame with white audiences came to Howlin’ Wolf in the 1960s and ’70s, when rock bands like the Rolling Stones acknowledged his influence on their music.