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The Howlin' Wolf Story (2003)

7.7
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Smokestack Lightning: The Legendary Howlin' Wolf is a documentary about the life and music of blues man Chester Burnett, the "Howlin' Wolf".

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Chester Burnett ...
Himself (archive footage)
...
Himself
Barbra Marks ...
Herself
Bettye Kelly ...
Herself
Son House ...
Himself (archive footage)
Bukka White ...
Himself (archive footage)
Memphis Slim ...
Himself (archive footage)
Willie Dixon ...
Himself (archive footage)
Muddy Waters ...
Himself (archive footage)
Robert Gordon ...
Himself -Muddy Waters biographer
Mark Hoffman ...
Himself - biographer
Richard Shurman ...
Himself
Sam Phillips ...
Himself
Sonny Boy Williamson ...
Himself (archive footage)
Paul Burlison ...
Himself
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rock | chicago illinois | blues | See All (3) »

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4 November 2003 (USA)  »

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the REAL story of the blues
3 October 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

should be required viewing by anyone with any interest in any type of rock music. Mr. Wolf is not only my choice as the single most important blues artist of the 20th century, he was also the most exciting live performer in any musical genre; Hendrix, the Stones and Iggy Pop combined might qualify as a decent opening act for Wolf. Mere words can not explain the power, excitement and explosive force that was Howlin Wolf. A unique and captivating singer, a strong harp player, a woefully underrated guitarist and a historically important songwriter; add all of that to the incredible live performances and you have the king of blues (and rock) artists.

The film captured a handful of surviving bandmembers (hubert sumlin, jody williams, sam lay) and mixed in some great archival footage of folks ranging from Muddy Waters to Son House to Brian Jones (his "How-LING Wolf" intro on Shindig was good for a laugh). Wolf is easily at the top of my list of artists I regret not seeing in person, but this film did a good job of giving us the next best thing. If it comes up short in any area, it doesn't offer that much actual live performance footage. But the 50s/60s era bluesmen were completely ignored by USA television during this time, so little or NO commercial footage exists for these extremely important musicians. Fortunately, the American Film Blues Festival (1962 to 1969) brought many of these artists over to Europe for an annual tour that was regularly filmed for Euro television audiences. A three volume DVD set has been released in the past couple of years and volume 2 has an incredible 3 song segment by Wolf. The "Howlin Wolf Story" and all 3 volumes of the AFBF series might be the best return on $60 imaginable.


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