|Born||March 4, 1923|
Senatobia, Mississippi, U.S.
|Died||February 26, 1995 71) (aged|
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Genres||Electric blues Memphis blues|
|Associated acts||Howlin' Wolf|
Willie Johnson (March 4, 1923 – February 26, 1995)was an American electric blues guitarist. He is best known as the principal guitarist in Howlin' Wolf's band from 1948–53. His raucous, distorted guitar playing features on Howlin' Wolf's Memphis recordings of 1951–3, including the hit song "How Many More Years" (recorded May 1951).
Electric blues refers to any type of blues music distinguished by the use of electric amplification for musical instruments. The guitar was the first instrument to be popularly amplified and used by early pioneers T-Bone Walker in the late 1930s and John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters in the 1940s. Their styles developed into West Coast blues, Detroit blues, and post-World War II Chicago blues, which differed from earlier, predominantly acoustic-style blues. By the early 1950s, Little Walter was a featured soloist on blues harmonica or blues harp using a small hand-held microphone fed into a guitar amplifier. Although it took a little longer, the electric bass guitar gradually replaced the stand-up bass by the early 1960s. Electric organs and especially keyboards later became widely used in electric blues.
A guitarist is a person who plays the guitar. Guitarists may play a variety of guitar family instruments such as classical guitars, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, and bass guitars. Some guitarists accompany themselves on the guitar by singing or playing the harmonica.
Chester Arthur Burnett, known as Howlin' Wolf, was a Chicago blues singer, guitarist, and harmonica player, originally from Mississippi. With a booming voice and imposing physical presence, he is one of the best-known Chicago blues artists. The musician and critic Cub Koda noted, "no one could match Howlin' Wolf for the singular ability to rock the house down to the foundation while simultaneously scaring its patrons out of its wits." Producer Sam Phillips recalled, "When I heard Howlin' Wolf, I said, 'This is for me. This is where the soul of man never dies.'" Several of his songs, including "Smokestack Lightnin'", "Killing Floor" and "Spoonful", have become blues and blues rock standards. In 2011, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him number 54 on its list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time".
In 2017, Johnson was posthumously inducted in to the Blues Hall of Fame.
The Blues Hall of Fame is a music museum located in Memphis, Tennessee. Initially, the "Blues Hall of Fame" was not a physical building, but a listing of people who have significantly contributed to blues music. Started in 1980 by the Blues Foundation, it honors those who have performed, recorded, or documented blues. The actual building for the hall opened to the public on May 8, 2015.
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Willie Lee Johnson was born in Senatobia, Mississippi. [ citation needed ]As the guitarist in the first band led by Howlin' Wolf, he appeared on most of Wolf's recordings between 1951 and 1953. He provided the slightly jazzy yet raucous guitar sound that was the signature of all of Wolf's Memphis recordings. Johnson also performed and recorded with other blues artists in the Memphis area, including pianist Willie Love, Willie Nix, Junior Parker, Roscoe Gordon, Bobby "Blue" Bland and others.
Senatobia is a city in and the county seat of Tate County, Mississippi, and is the 16th largest municipality in the Memphis Metropolitan Area. The population was 8,165 at the 2010 census.
The Memphis blues is a style of blues music created from the 1910s to the 1930s by musicians in the Memphis area, like Frank Stokes, Sleepy John Estes, Furry Lewis and Memphis Minnie. The style was popular in vaudeville and medicine shows and was associated with Beale Street, the main entertainment area in Memphis, W. C. Handy, the "Father of the Blues", published the song "The Memphis Blues". In lyrics, the phrase has been used to describe a depressed mood.
Willie Love Jr. was an American Delta blues pianist. He is best known for his association with and accompaniment of Sonny Boy Williamson II.
When Wolf moved to Chicago in around 1953, he could not convince Johnson to join him.Johnson stayed on in Memphis for several years, playing on a number of sessions for Sun Records, including a 1955 collaboration with vocalist Sammy Lewis, "I Feel So Worried", released under the name Sammy Lewis with Willie Johnson. By the time Johnson relocated to Chicago, Wolf had already hired guitarist Hubert Sumlin as a permanent replacement.
Sun Records is an American independent record label founded by Sam Phillips in Memphis, Tennessee in 1950. Sun was the first company to record Elvis Presley, Charlie Rich, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash.
Hubert Charles Sumlin 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 Stone's "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".
James Cotton later recalled that Wolf replaced Johnson because of his heavy drinking.
James Henry Cotton was an American blues harmonica player, singer and songwriter, who performed and recorded with many of the great blues artists of his time and with his own band. He played drums early in his career but is famous for his harmonica playing.
Alcohol abuse encompasses a spectrum of unhealthy alcohol drinking behaviors, ranging from binge drinking to alcohol dependence.
Johnson occasionally performed and recorded with Howlin' Wolf after settling in Chicago, and also played briefly in the band of Muddy Waters, as well as a number of other local Chicago blues musicians, including J. T. Brown, in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He made his living mainly outside of music for the rest of his life, only occasionally sitting in with the bands of his old friends around Chicago. His final recordings were made for Earwig Music in Chicago in the early 1990s.[ citation needed ]
McKinley Morganfield, known professionally as Muddy Waters, was an American blues singer-songwriter and musician who is often cited as the "father of modern Chicago blues", and an important figure on the post-war blues scene.
J. T. Brown was an American tenor saxophonist of the Chicago blues era. He was variously billed as Saxman Brown, J.T. Brown and Bep Brown.
Earwig Music Company is an American blues and jazz independent record label, founded by Michael Frank in October 1978 in Chicago.
Willie Johnson died in Chicago on February 26, 1995.
Willie Johnson the guitarist should not be confused with Willie Johnson (a member of the Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet until joining the Jubilaires in 1948), or with Blind Willie Johnson, an earlier gospel artist.
Chess Records was an American record company, founded in 1950 in Chicago and specializing in blues and rhythm and blues. Over time it expanded into soul music, gospel music, early rock and roll, and occasional jazz and comedy recordings, released on the Chess label and on its subsidiary labels Checker, Argo/Cadet and Cadet Concept. The entire Chess catalogue is currently owned by Universal Music Group and managed by Geffen Records.
Moanin' in the Moonlight was the debut album by American blues singer Howlin' Wolf. The album was a compilation of previously issued singles by Chess Records. It was originally released by Chess Records as a mono-format LP record in 1959. The album has been reissued several times, including a vinyl reissue in 1969, with the playing order changed, titled Evil.
Jimmy D. Lane is an American electric blues guitarist.
Howlin' Wolf is the second studio album from Chicago blues singer/guitarist/harmonicist Howlin' Wolf. It is a collection of twelve singles previously released by the Chess label from 1960 through 1962. Because of the illustration on its sleeve, the album is often called The Rockin' Chair Album, a nickname even added to the cover on some reissue pressings of the LP.
"Killing Floor" is a 1964 song by American blues singer-songwriter and guitarist Howlin' Wolf. Called "one of the defining classics of Chicago electric blues", "Killing Floor" has been recorded by various artists and has been acknowledged by the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame.
"Smokestack Lightning" is a blues song recorded by Howlin' Wolf in 1956. It became one of his most popular and influential songs. It is based on earlier blues songs, and numerous artists later interpreted it.
"Wang Dang Doodle" is a blues song written by Willie Dixon. Music critic Mike Rowe calls it a party song in an urban style with its massive, rolling, exciting beat. It was first recorded by Howlin' Wolf in 1960 and released by Chess Records in 1961. In 1965, Dixon and Leonard Chess persuaded Koko Taylor to record it for Checker Records, a Chess subsidiary. Taylor's rendition quickly became a hit, reaching number thirteen on the Billboard R&B chart and number 58 on the pop chart. "Wang Dang Doodle" became a blues standard and has been recorded by various artists.
"Little Red Rooster" is a blues standard credited to arranger and songwriter Willie Dixon. The song was first recorded in 1961 by American blues musician Howlin' Wolf in the Chicago blues style. His vocal and slide guitar playing are key elements of the song. It is rooted in the Delta blues tradition and the theme is derived from folklore. Musical antecedents to "Little Red Rooster" appear in earlier songs by blues artists Charlie Patton and Memphis Minnie.
"I Ain't Superstitious" is a song written by bluesman Willie Dixon and first recorded by Howlin' Wolf in 1961. It recounts various superstitions, including that of a black cat crossing the pathway. The song has been recorded by a number of artists, including Jeff Beck, whose version has been acknowledged by Rolling Stone magazine.
Henry Gray is an African-American blues piano player and singer. He has been playing for more than seven decades and has performed with many artists, including Robert Lockwood, Jr., Billy Boy Arnold, Morris Pejoe, the Rolling Stones, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. He has more than 58 albums to his credit, including recordings for Chess Records. He is credited as helping to create the distinctive sound of the Chicago blues piano.
KWEM Radio was set up by the KLXR-Razorback Network in 1946, in West Memphis, Arkansas. Efforts were made to get the radio station on air before the end of 1946, but equipment problems delayed the opening. Tests were made during the second week of January 1947, and the station's formal opening was held on February 23, 1947.
Eddie Shaw was an American Chicago blues tenor saxophonist, arranger and bandleader. He led Howlin' Wolf's band, the Wolf Gang, from 1972, both before Wolf's death in 1976 and subsequently.
His Best is a greatest hits album by American blues musician Howlin' Wolf. The album was originally released on April 8, 1997 by MCA/Chess Records, and was one of a series of releases by MCA for the 50th anniversary of Chess Records that year. Ten years later – on April 17, 2007 – the album was reissued by Geffen Records as The Definitive Collection.
Kent DuChaine, is an American blues singer and guitarist.
"How Many More Years" is a blues song written and originally recorded by Howlin' Wolf in July 1951. Recorded at the Memphis Recording Service – which later became the Sun Studio – it was released by Chess Records and reached no.4 on the Billboard R&B chart. Musician and record producer T-Bone Burnett has described "How Many More Years" as "in some ways... the first rock’n’roll song...". It was a double-sided hit with "Moanin' at Midnight", which reached no.10 on the R&B chart.
Matt Hill is an American electric blues singer, guitarist and songwriter. To date, Hill has released two albums, and he has also gained a reputation for his energetic live performances.
Echford Lee Cooper Jr., known as Lee Cooper, was an American blues guitarist. Because of his relatively short career and the anonymous role of session musicians in the 1950s, Cooper is said to be "overlooked and highly underrated."