Howlin Wolf Brings the Blues Alive at Black Ensemble Theater in Chicago

Howlin Wolf Brings the Blues Alive at Black Ensemble Theater in Chicago
l. to r. Cunningham, Stone, Williams Photo Credit: Danny Nicholas

Get ready to “put your hands together,” stomp your feet–and if you’re a lady, a chance to rock on stage with the greatest Blues Legend of all time, Howlin Wolf.

If you weren’t around to see Wolf perform his classic electric blues or hear his infamous howl in the 50’s and 60’s–it’s not too late. You can time travel back to those days at the Black Ensemble Theater (BET) production of Ain’t No Crying the Blues (In The Memory of Howlin Wolf) with Rick Stone’s extraordinary portrayal of the man and his music.

“No one can bring Howlin Wolf to life better than Rick Stone.  Rick, who also played the famous Howlin Wolf at Black Ensemble in a different script in 2003, is Wolf reincarnated.  In bringing Howlin Wolf back to the stage there was just one man who could give the role justice and that’s Rick Stone,” says Jackie Taylor, CEO and founder of BET.  “This production takes us to a different place and time—and takes place in the mind of Howlin Wolf.  The cast and company, including director Rueben Echoles and the BE Band led by Robert Reddrick, is the perfect team for this new production.”

You’ll learn about the highs and lows in the life the great blues singer, who was impressive both for his size at 6′ 6″ and nearly 300 lbs. and his rough-edged, somewhat crude musical style–that influenced generations of musicians from the 50’s and 60’s and even beyond the grave to the punk blues bands of the 1990’s.

You’ll hear Wolf’s biggest hits such as “Smokestack Lightnin'”, “Back Door Man”, “Killing Floor” and “Spoonful.” You’ll feel his pain, as he recalls a mom who didn’t want him around and threw him out of the house at age seven. You’ll learn the inside story of his on-going feud with Muddy Waters (Dwight Neal). You’ll meet Lillie (Kylah Williams), Wolf’s wife and the love of his life.

You’ll follow his career from the 1950’s at Sun Studio in Memphis where he gained a local following and and cut his first records at Bihari Brothers at RPM Records. You’ll marvel at his financial savvy when he comes to Chicago to record with Chess Records and lets Leonard Chess (Michael Reckling) know where he stands.

Howlin Wolf’s was born “Chester Arthur Burnett” and became one of the greatest and most influential blues singers that ever lived.  Wolf was inducted into the Blues Foundations Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.

Although Wolf died in 1976 at age 65, he has not been forgotten with his sound still resonating in the new Millennium where he was ranked 51st of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” by Rolling Stone magazine in 2004.

Ironically, 1976, the year Wolf died was the same year that the then 25-year-old Chicago native, Jackie Taylor who grew up in Cabrini Green started Black Ensemble Theater with a $1,200 loan. Since that time the Theater has produced more than 100 productions and employed over 5,000 artists.

On November 18, 2011, The Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center opened at 4450 N. Clark Street.  The beautiful new facility is able to produce larger-scale productions and a wider range of educational programming.

It  includes amenities such as a 299-seat main stage theater (double the capacity of the original venue); 14 offices, classroom space; rehearsal hall, dance studio, scene shop, costume shop, and wardrobe rooms; seven dressing rooms; rehearsal room for musicians; front lobby space with concession areas; and an indoor parking garage.

 Black Ensemble Theater performance times are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 3:00 and 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00.  Tickets are $55 (Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturday matinees) and $65 (Fridays, Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees). A 10% discount is available for students, seniors, and groups. 4450 N. Clark St.   773-769-4451.  Now through August 11, 2013.

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