Howlin’ Wolf – Smokestack Lightnin’

I first learned about Howlin’ Wolf after reading a Rolling Stones biography. It contained an interview that Brian Jones did in the early sixties. He founded the Stones and pushed the Stones toward the blues.

Howlin’ Wolf’s real name was Chester Burnett and he was born in 1910. He was a blues singer, guitarist, and harp player. He had a professional rivalry with fellow bluesman Muddy Waters. Waters ended up getting Wolf his first job in Chicago.

This classic song was recorded way back in 1956 at the legendary Chess studios in Chicago. Wolf is listed as the songwriter and the producers were Leonard Chess, Phil Chess, and Willie Dixon. He lives up to the Howlin’ part of his name…his voice is powerful. He has been credited as one of the first to move acoustic blues to electric guitar.

The Yardbirds (The Clapton version) covered this song and Howlin’  Wolf himself considered their version the definitive version of his song. That had to be quite an honor coming from the man himself.

After reading many of Christian’s posts…I realized I need to add some more blues into my blog…

Smokestack Lightning

Whoa, smokestack lightnin’
Shinin’ just like gold
Why don’t you hear me cryin’?
A-whoo-hoo, a-whoo-hoo, whoo

Whoa-oh, tell me, baby
What’s the matter here?
Why don’t you hear me cryin’?
Whoo-hoo, whoo-hoo, whoo

Whoa-oh, tell me, baby
Where did you stay last night?
Why don’t you hear me cryin’?
Whoo-hoo, whoo-hoo, whoo

Whoa-oh, stop your train
Let a poor boy ride
Why don’t you hear me cryin’?
Whoo-hoo, whoo-hoo, whoo

Whoa-oh, fare-you-well
Never see a you no more
Why don’t you hear me cryin’?
Whoo-hoo, whoo-hoo, whoo

Whoa-oh, who been here baby since
I, I been gone a little bitty boy?
Girl, be on
A-whoo-hoo, whoo-hoo, whoo


Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

12 thoughts on “Howlin’ Wolf – Smokestack Lightnin’”

  1. Its lyrics were inspired, in part, by Charlie Patton’s ‘Moon Going Down’ and the Mississippi Sheik’s ‘Stop and Listen Blues’. Lyrically the song is a collection of short, clipped verses around the general themes of romantic betrayal and the need to catch a train and leave his mistreatment behind and thus it often has different lyrics when other groups cover it. When I listen to this, I imagine Howlin’ Wolf is up on a hill one night and his attention is drawn to the gold embers coming out of an approaching train’s smokestack and he says, “Why don’t ya hear me cryin’?”, because he is sad that his woman is not with him. He goes on to say, “Whoa oh, tell me, baby Where did ya, stay last night?”, as he has been hurt by her not coming back to him last night. Now he is angry and confused and he is thinking about putting her on the next train outta here, so he says, “Whoa-oh, stop your train Let her, go for a ride.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the shout-out, Max, great tune! Frankly, I had not realized Howlin’ Wolf also played guitar. I always associated him harmonica only. He was an intimidating guy and probably not somebody you wanted to mess around with! The Yardbirds’ cover is cool as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. His voice knocked me out…I love the old blues guys but this guys voice is awesome! Yea he was a big guy…he influenced a lot of people.


    1. His voice John….I like all the old bluesman’s voices but this guy had the pipes! So rich and full. Yea I wish you could have seen him.


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