The Turnaround: Howlin’ Wolf andHubertSumlin
TG takes a look at two iconic bluesmen, with tips on phrasing, playing with a slide and open tunings
Though Howlin’ Wolf and Hubert Sumlin did record separately on occasion, a great deal of their recorded legacy is as bandmates. Hubert Sumlin was a ‘hired hand’, though he recorded with Wolf from the mid-1950s right up to Wolf’s death in 1976. Sumlin handled the main guitar parts on classics like Dust My Broom as Wolf moved on to harmonica – though he was well respected as a slide guitarist.
For accurate pitching, simply position your slide directly over the frets instead of just behind. And, if you use your third or fourth finger for your slide, you can carefully mute behind your slide to avoid strange noises from the unused part of the string.
Many slide players favour open tunings because these enable you to move chords and melodic intervals around with just the slide placed across the frets. Though Wolf favoured open A (E A E A C# E) this does put strain on a standard string set, so we’ve taken this down a tone to G (DGDGBD) – a tuning much loved by Keith Richards, Jimmy Page and Son House.
We begin with two examples in Wolf’s slide style, then move to standard tuning for Sumlin-style blues licks. Use a bridge pickup with an ‘almost clean’ tone.