Hubert Sumlin, one of the towering figures of blues guitar, died Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011. The 80-year-old Sumlin had congestive heart failure, according to his agent, Hugh Southard, and died at a hospital in Wayne, N.J.
Sumlin was the lead guitarist for legendary blues singer Howlin' Wolf on their seminal recordings for Chess Records. Although overshadowed by the massive Wolf, it is impossible to think about blues classics such as "Killing Floor," "Back Door Man," "Spoonful" and "Wang Dang Doodle" without imaging Sumlin's stinging yet soulful guitar riffs.
Ironically, millions of people who have never heard of Howlin' Wolf have been listening to Sumlin's distinctive guitar work on the classic song "Smokestack Lightin'" as the soundtrack to a recent TV commercial for Viagra.
Sumlin's influence lives on today in the countless rock guitarists who were influenced by him, including Keith Richards and Eric Clapton. In 2004, both men played with Sumlin on his recording, "About Them Shoes," a star-studded effort including Levon Helm on drums, James Cotton on harmonica and David Johansen on vocals.
A recent poll of guitarists in "Rolling Stone" magazine ranked Sumlin 43rd among the greatest guitarists of all time. "I love Hubert Sumlin," said Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page in the "Rolling Stone" article on Sumlin. "He always played the right thing at the right time."
New York Times
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