Hubert Sumlin didn’t know Johnson personally, but was influenced by his style through the teachings of great blues legends such as Howling Wolf and Muddy Waters. Just as Johnson embodied the spirit, emotion, words and rhythm of blues music, Sumlin explains to Insight News how he carries on the torch as a necessity of life.
Maya Beecham: When you look back over your history with music can you tell me how you have evolved as a man and a musician in that time?
Hubert Sumlin: You know just by me coming up. I came up in Greenwood, MS, that’s where I was born. You know how [Jim Crow] was, but I am going to tell you I survived it. We survived it. My family survived it. We survived a lot of stuff. I worked, I plowed mules, I did everything. We did everything. Picked cotton, hoed, chopped. We did everything to survive. So music is a thing that came along. This is what we call the blues. This is what it is all about. The way you live, the way you came up. I believe the blues is here. It can’t go away. It’s going to be here. I put it like this, rock and roll, jazz, hard rock, all of it is the blues because the words are the same; not only the words, but the reality of the words.
MB: What keeps you going?
HS: The blues. This music. No kidding that’s what keeps me going and the good Lord. I love the blues. I love the blues. This is where I am from, and I learned from old people. I am going to be playing until the end. I am 79-years-old this year, I will be 80. I have been married three times, and the first wife said “Mr. Sumlin you are my husband. I know you are a musician, but there is something I have never asked you. Do you love me? It seems like you love the guitar better than you do me.” I said, “what do you think?” She said, “I think you love the guitar better than you do me.” I said, “well I don’t know, I guess I do.” Maybe I loved both of them, but God knows I love the guitar. I am going to be playing to the end. I love what I am doing.
MB: What advice do you have for musicians?
HS: Love what you are doing. Play what you are feeling. You are going to feel it if you are a musician.