Archive for November, 2017

Howlin’ Wolf’s “Who’s Been Talking?”

Howlin’ Wolf (Chester Arthur Burnett, 1910-1976) was born in abject poverty in White Station, Mississippi, a tiny railroad station. When his parents separated, his mother, a religious fanatic, sent him to be raised by his great-uncle Will Young, a preacher, who beat the boy mercilessly. When he was 13, he ran away and joined his father on a plantation in Ruleville, Mississippi, in the Delta. There he learned guitar from local bluesman Charlie Patton and harmonica from Sonny Boy Williamson.

In 1951, Wolf came into Sun Studios in Memphis, to audition for the great Sam Phillips, the man responsible for launching the careers of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and many others. Phillips recalls seeing Wolf for the first time, a 6 ‘ 3”, 275 pound giant coming out of the fields in his overalls, holes cut out in the sides of his size 16 boots to accommodate his corns. When he heard him sing, Phillips said “This is where the soul of man never dies.” The first song Wolf recorded for Sun, “How Many More Years”, became a big hit on the R&B charts and a bidding war for Wolf’s services followed, won by the Chess brothers in Chicago. Phillips said that the loss of Wolf was his life’s biggest disappointment, worse than losing Elvis, who Phillips had to sell to RCA records for $35,000 to keep his studio going.


Wolf’s booming voice and imposing stage presence made him one of the most popular blues artists of all time. Several of his songs became blues standards, many of them written by Chess songwriter Willie Dixon. His rough and raw stage personna was in stark contrast to the man himself. Functionally illiterate into his forties, Wolf eventually returned to school to earn a general education diploma and later to study accounting and other business courses to help manage his career. He payed his musicians very well and on time, provided them with health insurance and deducted unemployment insurance ans Social Security – a practice unheard of at that time.

Wolf met his wife, Lillie, when she attended one of his performances at a Chicago club. According to those who knew them, the couple remained deeply in love all their life. Together they raised Bettye and Barbara, Lillie’s daughters from an earlier relationship.

Wolf tried to reconnect with his mother all his life. At the peak of his success, he saw his mother in Mississippi but she rebuffed him. She refused to take the money he offered her, saying it was from his playing the “devil’s music”. Hubert Sumlin, his guitarist and friend, said Wolf cried all the way back to Chicago.

Richard and Roch

Wolf’s health began declining in the late 1960s. He had several heart attacks and suffered bruised kidneys in a car accident in 1970. Wolf had kidney surgery and died of complications from the procedure on January 10, 1976, at the age of 65.

Howlin’ Wolf probably influenced more artists than any other bluesman, even the great Muddy Waters. To listen to Captain Beefheart, Joe Cocker, Freddie King, or Tom Waits is to hear Wolf. I thought it would be fitting to play “Who’s Been Talking?”, one of my favourite Wolf songs, in the style of Tom Waits.

Richard Séguin – voice, electric guitars, MIDI guitar (tenor and alto saxophones)
Alrick Huenener – upright bass
Roch Tassé – drums

Who’s Been Talking?

Photo of Alrick by Kate Morgan

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Delbert McClinton’s “When Rita Leaves”

Delbert McClinton’s website says that there are two kinds of people in the world – those who love Delbert McClinton and those who haven’t heard him yet. Very true. Unfortunately, there are far too many in that second category.

In a career that spans more than five decades and nineteen studio albums, McClinton, a singer, songwriter and multi – instrumentalist from Lubbock, Texas, has managed to win Grammys in both the Rock and Blues categories. He’s also had great success on the Country charts for his collaborations with Tanya Tucker and Emmylou Harris and is also no stranger to R& B and Tex-Mex. Many artists have flocked to participate in his recording sessions over the years, including Bonny Raitt, Lyle Lovett, B.B. King, John Prine, Tom Petty and Melissa Etheridge. McClinton is easily one of the best songwriters I’ve ever heard and his songs have been recorded by Etta James, Emmylou Harris, Joe Cocker, Rita Coolidge and even the late, great Ray Charles. Lyle Lovett famously said “ If we could all sing like we wanted to, we’d all sing like Delbert.”


Delbert McClinton made a name for himself as a young harmonica player in the Texas roadhouses and was soon backing the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley and Jimmy Reed – something unheard of for a young white boy. Touring England with Bruce Channel in 1962, Delbert met the young John Lennon and taught him the finer points of playing the harmonica.

In all his compositions, it’s mostly Delberts lyrics that ring true for me – simple, honest, with the occasional wry humour. The first time I heard “Your Memory, Me, and the Blues” and his
impeccable lyrics “A creature of habit in all that I do / When I make coffee, I still make coffee for

Richard and Roch

two”, I knew that Delbert McClinton was in a class by himself. Roch, Alrick and I have chosen to play his Tex-Mex classic “When Rita Leaves.” I’m sure that every songwriter alive wishes they had written this song. If I were hosting a songwriting class, this is where I`d start.

Richard Séguin – voice, acoustic guitar, classical guitar, mandolin
Alrick Huebener – upright bass
Roch Tassé – drums and percussion

When Rita Leaves

Photo of Alrick by Kate Morgan

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