The stars must have been in perfect alignment when Phil and Leonard Chess started the world renowned label, Chess Records in 1950. How else could you explain a roster of talent that included: Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf, Etta James, Chuck Berry, and the incomparable Muddy Waters? In Darnell Martin's 2008 film, Cadillac Records, the truth and myth make for lively music biopic, but if you are looking for historical accuracy, you are going to be a little disappointed. The movie might have a touch of fairy tale, but there is just enough of the truth peppered in to make it a truly satisfying fairy tale, and it's a respectable tribute to some of history's greatest musicians. Cadillac starred Adrien Brody as founder Leonard Chess, with Beyonce Knowles as James, Jeffrey Wright as Waters, Mos Def as Berry, and last but not least; Eamonn Walker as the subject of today's Scenes (Songs) We Love: Howlin' Wolf.
In Martin's film, Waters and Wolf are adversaries with a grudging respect for each other, but the truth is a little bit more complicated than that. Music historians have always pitted the men against one another as the two "pillars of the blues", but as two regular guys, the relationship was probably not as contentious. But Martin embellishes a little, and when you've got Wright and Walker on hand, you might as well put them to work, and the two provide some of the best moments in the movie.
Howlin' Wolf (born Chester Arthur Burnett) was one blues man you would never forget. At 6 ft 6 inches tall and weighing in at almost 300lbs, Wolf was once described as "the only man who could to rock the house down to the foundation while simultaneously scaring its patrons out of its wits." -- how can you not fall in love with a description like that? It's a tough act to follow, but I think Walker nails it, and it isn't easy imitating a voice once described as "the sound of heavy machinery operating on a gravel road".
As an added bonus: a live performance from the man himself.