I really enjoyed Don McGlynn’s The Howlin’ Wolf Story (2003), which I saw on DVD. I think it’s one of the best blues documentaries I’ve seen. It’s a typical mix of archival footage and photos with contemporary talking heads interviews. It gives an overview of Wolf’s life and music. One of its strengths is that several songs are heard in entirety. Some are recordings behind a montage of images. The best segments are from a 1966 performance of Wolf with Hubert Sumlin, his lead guitarist, and others. There are also some clips of drummer Sam Lay’s home movies of Wolf and the band at Silvio’s Lounge in Chicago (now a vacant lot). One really gets a sense of what he might have been like as a performer. I would give almost anything to have seen him perform before his death in 1976.
Howlin’ Wolf is one of my blues heroes and mentors. While he’s not as well known, perhaps, as Muddy Waters, he’s of equal stature in his importance to the blues and his influence on later music, including rock ‘n’ roll.