Fifty Years Ago Today: The Moment The Rolling Stones introduced Howlin’ Wolf To America

Regular readers know we like to celebrate a good anniversary here at ERTAS. Yesterday was the fiftieth anniversary of The Kinks’ most legendary fight, not to mention Pete Townsend’s 70th birthday. Today, 20th May 2015 is the fiftieth anniversary of the day a white British rock n roll band introduced America to one of its own recording legends for the very first time, when The Rolling Stones appeared on ABC’s popular TV show “Shindig!” and opened the door for Howlin’ Wolf’s first mainstream TV appearance.

Can it really be true that the majority of America’s first exposure to the blues on TV was thanks to a rough looking bunch of foreigners?

Music writer Peter Guralnick believes so. He listed it as one of the Top Ten TV moments of all time and as one of the most significant moments in cultural history.

Blues guitarist Buddy Guy said of the TV appearance, “It was the light at the end of the tunnel. There was a boundary line which no one thought could be crossed, and The Rolling Stones broke it by getting Wolf on that show”. It was something we would never even have thought of. The hairs were just standing on my head.”

It was also the first time the band played their forthcoming single, “Satisfaction” to the public.

Bill Wyman recalled how this came about.

“We had requested that blues artists Howlin’ Wolf and Son House should be on the show with us. We were in hysterics when Jack Good persistently referred to him in his proper English as “Mr Howlin'”..”

Said Keith Richards, “I’ll always remember (pop promoter) Jack Good’s voice on the set, very English, calling out “Er, Howlin’, could you do that again?” and “Er, Mr Wolf…”

Jimmy O’Neill interviewed Brian Jones on the show. Jones told him, “We started because we wanted to play rhythm and blues, and Howlin’ Wolf was one of our greatest idols.”

These were amazing words – “greatest idols” – from a blonde white guy at a time in American history when Wolf might have been refused service at many restaurants in the South.

Here’s a clip of Howlin’ Wolf from the show….it still sends a shiver down the spine…

Buddy Guy told of how he had spoken with Howlin’ Wolf after the show. “We talked about it later. He said about how the man next door don’t know who I am – and here’s some British kids from thousands of miles away”.

“I know he was proud of what happened cause as far as the record companies or the news media or anything, we were all ignored until those kids came in.”

Sources:

  • Bill Wyman: Stone Alone
  • Paul Trynka: Sympathy For The Devil
  • Philip Norman: The Stones
  • Keith Richards: A Life


Categories: Blues

Tags: , , , , ,

3 replies

  1. The popular American view for many years was that the Stones and the Beatles were simply recycling old music and selling it back to American kids. I think these opinions reflect the xenophobia and racism which was endemic in American society at the time. I have always loved that it was white English kids that introduced the blues to the US mainstream. It’s sad though that blues musicians were not acceptable until some white kids said they were.

    Liked by 1 person

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