Despite the calibre of the other contenders, from Elvis to Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash, Sam Phillips said his greatest work at Sun Studio were the early recordings he made with Chester Burnett, better known as the Howlin' Wolf. The Wolf was the 300lb mountain-man of the blues, a primal presence whose snarling, keening, moaning voice is one of R&B's most thrilling and inimitable sounds. It is apparently an accurate representation of his character, variously described as truculent, jealous, paranoid, "meaner than a junkyard dog" and even "bone stupid". The Wolf's greatest successes would come during his later tenure at Chess Records - neophytes are directed to the final four songs here, and to the "Rocking Chair Album" - but the bulk of these tracks, mostly recorded between 1951 and 1953 in Memphis with a band featuring Ike Turner (the A&R genius who discovered him) on piano, provide some idea of what a culture shock it must have been to encounter this force of nature in its rawest state.
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