He was named after Chester A. Arthur, the 21st President of the United States, and as a kid Chester Arthur Burnett was nicknamed Big Foot Chester or Bull Cow as he grew to stand 6 feet, 6 inches tall and weigh in close to 300 pounds. That was a big man. But we know him as Howlin' Wolf, legendary and incredibly influential blues singer, guitarist, harmonica player and composer, whose songs are as standard today as anything written by Gershwin, Porter, Rodgers and Hart, Carmichael, Leiber and Stoller or McCartney and Lennon. Howlin' Wolf’s compositions include “Killing Floor,” “Sitting on Top of the World,” “Who's Been Talking?,” “Moanin’ at Midnight,” and “Smokestack Lightnin'.”
Also, his versions of Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful” and “Back Door Man” are about as perfect a three minutes as you’ll ever hear in any genre, anytime, anyplace. Rough-edged, fearsome and fearless, Howlin' Wolf's booming voice sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard before -- like something in between grinding a knife on a whetstone or a sharpening steel or shears tearing into bone or a monster truck pulling donuts on a gravel road. As the adage goes -- Howlin' Wolf has often been imitated but never duplicated.
Chester Burnett died in Hines, Illinois on January 10, 1976 and is buried in the Oak Ridge Cemetery, Hillside, Cook County in Illinois. His gravestone, etched with a guitar and harmonica, and allegedly purchased by Eric Clapton, can be found in Section 18 on the east side of the road.
Today would have been his 100th birthday.