Just a few weeks after celebrating his 80th birthday, legendary blues guitarist Hubert Sumlin succumbed to heart failure at a hospital in Wayne, New Jersey earlier today according to the Houston Press [via CoS]. Sumlin, who was cited as an influence by a generation-spanning list of notable guitarists ranging from Warren Haynes to Keith Richards to Eric Clapton, was the primary guitarist in Howlin’ Wolf’s band from the mid ’50s until Wolf’s death in 1976. When Rolling Stone recently announced their 100 Greatest Guitarists of All-Time list, Sumlin was listed at 44.
Hubert had been battling health issues since a lung cancer diagnosis in 2002 and underwent lung removal surgery in 2004. He called off an October gig at Mountain Stage when a doctor told him he was unfit for air travel. Despite his declining health, Sumlin’s signature expressive style shined through as the oxygen-huffing guitarist lit into Smokestack Lightning and Key to the Highway earlier this year at the finale of the Allman Brothers Band’s March Madness run. Hubert’s megawatt smile was also on display that night as it had been throughout his half-century-plus career. R.I.P. Hubert, you’ll be missed but your music will live on.