The Phono Project

Exploring the history of the groove

“I asked for water (She gave me gasoline)” by Howlin’ Wolf

One cold November night in 1975 at the Chicago Amphitheater, legendary Blues singer Howlin’ Wolf made his last stage appearance at a concert among other Blues legends. Having suffered heart attacks and kidney failures for almost a decade prior to this event, Howlin’ Wolf quite literally rose from his deathbed to perform that night. Despite his medical conditions, Howlin’ Wolf’s incredible stage presence and spirit appeared in full force. He performed his classic antics, which included crawling around the stage, growling, and yes,  literally howlin’. 

Born Chester Arthur Burnett, Howlin’ Wolf was a giant in more ways than one.  Physically, the singer measured in at a staggering six foot three and 300 pounds.  Metaphorically, Wolf was a pillar in Chicago’s Classic Blues revival of the 50’s. 

This song, “I asked for Water (She Gave Me Gasoline),” encapsulates everything great about Howlin’ Wolf’s artistry.  His voice glides between powerful growls, to bright and clear falsetto vocals. The lyrics are dark and laden with alcoholic imagery, mixed together with pain from a troubled past. 

After receiving a five minute long standing ovation, paramedics were called to revive the singer offstage. Two months after that legendary final performance, Howlin’ Wolf passed away. His musical influence lives on, and can still be seen and heard in culture today. 

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