How Many More Years

Album: The Sun Records Collection (1951)
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • By 1948, Howlin' Wolf had established himself within the Memphis community as something of a local celebrity. The Chicago bluesman had a 15-minute radio show to help advertise his local appearances and he started recording in 1951, after Sun Studio founder, Sam Phillips, heard him on his radio show. The first two songs that Wolf laid down were this track, along with "Moanin' At Midnight," on August 15, 1951.

    Famed rootsy-Americana producer T Bone Burnett, is one of many aficionados of the Sun sound who cite this as the first rock 'n' roll song. Speaking with Uncut magazine in an April 2012 interview, he argued: "The first major breakthrough Sam made was with Howlin' Wolf. That's when he started bringing the bass and drums up loud. Back in those days, the bass and drums were background instruments; it was about the horns and the piano, the melody instruments, and Sam brought the rhythm section right up front, and that became rock 'n' roll. That was a big shift. In some ways 'How Many More Years' by Wolf would be the first rock 'n' roll song because that has the guitar lick that became the central guitar lick in rock 'n' roll, and that's the first time we heard that played on a distorted guitar. It was an old big band lick, turned into something completely fresh."
  • Howlin' Wolf was 6 feet, 6 inches tall and close to 300 pounds, but in this song he's been pushed around by a woman, and wonders how much longer he's going to endure it. At the end of the song, he says he's going to get his stuff and leave, but we're not sure if he'll go through with it.

    Wolf wrote the song, which is credited to his real name, Chester Burnett.
  • Led Zeppelin borrowed extensively from this song for their 1969 track, "How Many More Times."
  • The Rolling Stones did their part to spread the gospel of Howlin' Wolf. When they appeared on the American variety show Shindig! on May 20, 1965, they made sure Wolf, then 55, was on the program (they had a #1 hit in the UK with "Little Red Rooster," originally recorded by Wolf). Wolf performed "How Many More Years" with Billy Preston on piano; to introduce him, host Jack Good had them say a few words about Wolf, who was unfamiliar to most Shindig! viewers. Brian Jones, the Stones lead guitarist and blues junkie, said: "When we first started playing together, we started playing because we wanted to play rhythm and blues, and Howlin' Wolf was one of our greatest idols. It's a great pleasure to find he's been booked on this show tonight. I think it's about time you shut up and we have Howlin' Wolf on stage."

Comments: 1

  • Steve from CincinnatiAn interesting bit of trivia. Ike Turner was the piano player on this song.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

00s Music Quiz 1

00s Music Quiz 1Music Quiz

Do you know the girl singer on Eminem's "Stan"? If so, this quiz is for you.

Andrew Farriss of INXS

Andrew Farriss of INXSSongwriter Interviews

Andrew Farriss on writing with Michael Hutchence, the stories behind "Mystify" and other INXS hits, and his country-flavored debut solo album.

Harold Brown of War

Harold Brown of WarSongwriter Interviews

A founding member of the band War, Harold gives a first-person account of one of the most important periods in music history.

Women Who Rock

Women Who RockSong Writing

Evelyn McDonnell, editor of the book Women Who Rock, on why the Supremes are just as important as Bob Dylan.

Zakk Wylde

Zakk WyldeSongwriter Interviews

When he was playing Ozzfest with Black Label Society, a kid told Zakk he was the best Ozzy guitarist - Zakk had to correct him.

Holly Knight ("The Best," "Love Is A Battlefield")

Holly Knight ("The Best," "Love Is A Battlefield")Songwriter Interviews

Holly Knight talks about some of the hit songs she wrote, including "The Warrior," "Never" and "The Best," and explains some songwriting philosophy, including how to think of a bridge.