100 Greatest Guitarists

43

Hubert Sumlin

hubert sumlin
Andrew Lepley/Redferns

"I love Hubert Sumlin," Jimmy Page has said. "He always played the right thing at the right time." During more than two decades playing alongside Howlin' Wolf, Sumlin always seemed to have an almost telepathic connection to the legendary blues singer, augmenting Wolf's ferocious cries with angular, slashing guitar lines and perfectly placed riffs on such immortal songs as "Wang Dang Doodle," "Back Door Man" and "Killing Floor." Sumlin made such an impact, in fact, that Wolf's greatest rival, Muddy Waters, even hired him away for a stint in 1956. Sumlin, who passed away in 2011 at age 80, played until the end, sometimes turning up onstage in the company of such acolytes as the Rolling Stones, Elvis Costello, Eric Clapton and the Allman Brothers. "You try to tell a story, tell it right, you live the story," Sumlin once said of his hugely influential guitar style. "It may be a little faster or a little classier, but it comes down to you playin' the blues or you ain't."

Key Tracks: "Smokestack Lightning," "Spoonful," "Killing Floor"

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