Hubert Sumlin

Hubert Sumlin
Unsung Heroes of Blues Guitar

By Peter Parcek
December 2011

It is inspiring when you get to meet one of your guitar heroes and he or she lives up to what you imagined they would be like. My friend David Herwaldt had a revered blues radio program a few years back on WMBR in Cambridge, MA. He was kind enough to allow me to sit in on the show on a number of occasions. One of these times was when the legendary Hubert Sumlin came to visit.

There have been books written about both Howlin' Wolf and Hubert Sumlin. I don't presume to be as knowledgeable, studied or qualified to offer more than anecdotes and observations. Hubert was on some of that first Wolf record I purchased, Moanin' In The Moonlight," and was featured even more on what has come to be known as the "Rocking Chair Album," "Real Folk Blues" and other great masterworks.

I knew that I loved Eric Clapton's playing and soulful tone, phrasing and vibrato but he won my undying respect when, as legend has it, he refused to participate in the London Howlin' Wolf Sessions recording unless Hubert Sumlin was included.

Hubert has a totally unique way of approaching and leaving a note, amazing glisses, refreshing and endearing note choices and phrasing, incredible vibrato and wizard-like tone achieved with his fingers touching strings sans a plectrum (pick).

When I met Hubert at WMBR he was gentle and inclusive. He encouraged me to play with him on air which astounded me. It appeared that he had an extra digit on each of his fingers, as his hands were much larger than mine. His vibrato and control of bends on an acoustic guitar was exemplary and would have been worthy of envy on an electric instrument never mind on an acoustic one.

He showed humility and graciousness. He definitely knew his rightful place in the lineage of blues guitar but he was surpassingly gentle about it. He also told great stories including a whopper about a guitar he was given (or loaned) by Eric Clapton during the London Sessions that was highly entertaining.

He was very kind and encouraging to me and invited me to sit in with his band at the House of Blues. I was really not ready at that point to do so but he insisted and I went with it. I am very glad I did as I learned quite a bit in the process and got to hear him up close on stage.

Thank you, Mr. Sumlin, for your great playing and for your kindness and encouragement.

Here is a YouTube link to Howlin Wolf performing “Shake For Me” live with Hubert Sumlin.

Listed below are Hubert Sumlin's website and his Wikipedia entry

Editor’s Note - As a 2010 Nominee for the “Best New Artist,” Peter Parcek is one of the best contemporary blues musicians out of Boston; though Boston is no longer a hotbed of blues, Peter is an international- level talent. He is one of the Boston Blues communities’ “Unsung Heroes.” Given Peter’s stature, who best to provide a master class for some of the hidden gems within the blues community?

If you have not had a chance to check out Peter’s material, go visit

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