RIP Hubert Sumlin (1931–2011)

(Image credit: Brian Hineline /Retna Ltd./Corbis)

One of the world's greatest blues players, Hubert Sumlin, best known for his long-running stint as Howlin' Wolf's guitarist, has died of heart failure aged 80, in Wayne, New Jersey.

The Mississippi-born player made a sizeable impact on blues, and in turn, rock music. He wrote the famous guitar line to Howlin' Wolf's most popular tune, 'Smokestack Lightning' (above) and has been cited as an influence by the likes of Keith Richards and Eric Clapton.

Sumlin was recruited by Howlin' Wolf in 1954 (although the guitarist had actually met his future-collaborator as a child after he snuck into a gig) and he would become the bluesman's most faithful musical companion, playing with Wolf until his death in 1976.

Following Wolf's death, Sumlin toured with the bluesman's remaining band under the name 'The Wolf Pack' and recorded a string of solo albums - the last of which, 2004's 'About Them Shoes', featured both Clapton and Richards alongside Levon Helm (The Band) and David Johansen (New York Dolls).

The guitarist received a much-deserved induction into the Blues Hall Of Fame in 2008 and leaves behind an irrefutable legacy of brilliant guitar work.

Check out the forthcoming Total Guitar issue 224 (on sale 23 January to 19 February) for a more in-depth look at Hubert Sumlin's amazing guitar career.

Matthew Parker

Matt is a freelance journalist who has spent the last decade interviewing musicians for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar,, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.