Greenwood in Leflore County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)
Hubert Sumlin’s sizzling guitar playing energized many of the classic Chicago blues records of Howlin’ Wolf in the 1950s and ‘60s. His reputation in blues and rock circles propelled him to a celebrated career on his own after Wolf’s death in 1976. In 2003 Rolling Stone magazine christened him one of “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.” Sumlin was born on the Pillow plantation in a house that stood just west of this site on November 16, 1931.
Hubert Sumlin grew up in Mississippi and Arkansas hearing his churchgoing mother admonish him for playing “the devil’s music”—the blues. But he found out, after sneaking in some blues licks on his guitar in church, that the sounds of the blues could win over even his mother. Sumlin’s innovative musicianship and endearing nature won the hearts of many musicians and admirers in the decades to follow. His boyhood partner, harmonica legend James Cotton, remained a lifelong friend. From 1954 to 1976 Howlin’ Wolf was as much a father figure to Sumlin as he was his musical employer. In later years Sumlin was
Sumlin started playing guitar in church, but was performing blues with James Cotton by the time the two were in their teens, after the Sumlin family had moved from Greenwood to Hughes, Arkansas. Hubert was awestruck at seeing Howlin’ Wolf rock the house at a local juke joint, and when Wolf later offered him a spot in his band in Chicago, Sumlin bade farewell to Cotton and to his family in Arkansas. Sumlin’s years with Wolf were highlighted by groundbreaking recordings such as “Killing Floor,” “300 Pounds of Joy,” “Smokestack Lightning,” and “Shake For Me” for the Chess label in Chicago. Wolf, a stern disciplinarian, fired his protégé on numerous occasions, only to rehire him every time. At one time Hubert even joined the band of Wolf’s main rival, Muddy Waters. He also played guitar on records by Muddy, Chuck Berry, Jimmy Reed, Willie Dixon, Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller), Eddie Taylor, Sunnyland Slim, Carey Bell, Eddie Shaw, James Cotton, and many others.
When Sumlin and Wolf toured Europe on the 1964 American Folk Blues Festival, Hubert made his first recordings under his own name in Germany and England. His only 45 rpm single came from an acoustic blues session
Erected 2008 by the Mississippi Blues Commission. (Marker Number 39.)
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans • Arts, Letters, Music • Entertainment. In addition, it is included in the Mississippi Blues Trail series list.
Location. 33° 31.1′ N, 90° 12.282′ W. Marker is in Greenwood, Mississippi, in Leflore County. Marker is at the intersection of 12th Street and River Road Extended, on the right when traveling north on 12th Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 12th Street, Greenwood MS 38930, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow Confederate Memorial Plot (approx. ¾ mile away); Old Greenwood Cemetery (approx. 0.8 miles away); Charles Edward Wright (approx. 1.1 miles away); Battery 'C' (approx. 1.1 miles away); First United Methodist Church (approx. 1.2 miles away); Greenwood (approx. 1.2 miles away); LeFlore County Confederate Memorial (approx. 1.2 miles away); Point LeFlore (approx. 1.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Greenwood.
Also see . . .
1. Hubert Sumlin Biography. (Submitted on September 17, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)
2. Mississippi Blues Trail. (Submitted on September 17, 2014.)
Credits. This page was last revised on August 30, 2017. It was originally submitted on September 17, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 325 times since then and 20 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on September 17, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.