The Howlin' Wolf Story (DVD Review)
The Secret History of Rock & Roll
The debate about precisely when the blues became rock’n’roll will go on forever, but the footage of The Howlin’ Wolf Story makes a good case for nominating Wolf as the first rock star. He’d do anything to reach an audience, including crawling across the floor like a snake and leaning off the edge of the stage to “threaten” audience members. With his eyes bugging out and his growling baritone howling out tales of infidelity and hard times, he came across as a force of nature, a powerful man with a larger-than-life personality. The DVD’s live footage is complemented by interviews with Wolf’s band members and daughters. These interviews paint a picture of a caring, gentle man. Wolf was one of the few bandleaders who paid benefits to those in his group. He learned how to read and write in his ’40s, stayed married to one woman all his life and was generous to up-and-coming musicians and songwriters. He took guitar lessons from blues pioneers Charlie Patton and Robert Johnson, created a unique signature rhythm and was a monster slide guitar player. The raw, inspired performances captured in this documentary are well worth the price of admission. DVD extras include drummer Sam Lay’s home movies of the late ’50s Chicago blues scene, a live radio broadcast by Wolf and his band, and the inside scoop on the career-long Wolf vs. Muddy Waters feud.