Magnificent Blues guitarist Hubert Sumlin died yesterday in New Jersey. He was 80. He had been sick for at least a couple of years:
“He always played the right thing at the right time,” Jimmy Page, one of Sumlin’s many admirers, once said. Sumlin, who played his beloved 1955 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop guitar without a pick, was a key inspiration for Keith Richards (who reportedly helped Sumlin with his medical bills in recent years), Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa, among others. Inspired by Sumlin’s piercing lead guitar on Wolf’s “Killing Floor,” Hendrix sat in with fellow guitar icon Eric Clapton in 1967, the only time the two performed together.
Rolling Stone named Hubert the 65th greatest guitarist of all time:
We have celebrated Hubert a lot here in Boles Blues, most recently in my Crossroads 2010 review:
Without question, my favorite performer of the day is 78-year-old Blues legend Hubert Sumlin — who takes the stage sitting down and wearing an oxygen aid in his nose — and his playing puts everyone else to shame because he is so preternaturally so very good.
Hubert made his name by playing rhythm guitar with Howlin’ Wolf. Hubert considered Howlin’ a father and Howlin’ considered Hubert his son. They were inseparable and intertwined. Here’s a tribute from Hubert to Howlin’ that explains their magical connection:
We will miss Hubert and his living testimony of Blues history, and we’ll all have to work just a little bit harder to fill the void he leaves behind. Hubert was always in good humor and his delight in living was contagious. He was willing to teach and to talk — and I am grateful there were enough people left in the world who were interested enough in listening and learning from him so his legacy could be recorded and carried forward just as he held forward his friendship and inspiration with Howlin’ Wolf for us.
Hubert was and shall remain an inspirational figure. Great tribute to a fantastic musician!
He was a living jewel, Gordon. So full of life and history!