Howlin' Wolf was a Chicago blues singer, guitarist, and harmonica player originally from Mississippi. With a booming voice and imposing physical presence, he is one of the best-known Chicago blues artists. The musician and critic Cub Koda noted, "no one could match Howlin' Wolf for the singular ability to rock the house down to the foundation while simultaneously scaring its patrons out of its wits." Producer Sam Phillips recalled, "When I heard Howlin' Wolf, I said, 'This is for me. This is where the soul of man never dies.'" Several of his songs, including "Smokestack Lightnin'", "Killing Floor" and "Spoonful" have become iconic in the music industry.
In the early 1960s, Howlin' Wolf recorded several songs that became his most famous, despite receiving no radio play: "Wang Dang Doodle", "Back Door Man", "Spoonful", "The Red Rooster" (later known as "Little Red Rooster"), "I Ain't Superstitious", "Goin' Down Slow", and "Killing Floor", many of which were written by Willie Dixon. Several became part of the repertoires of British and American rock groups, who further popularized them.
In January 1976, Burnett checked into the Veterans Administration Hospital in Hines, Illinois, for kidney surgery. He died of complications from the procedure on January 10, 1976, at the age of 65. He was buried in Oakridge Cemetery, outside Chicago, in a plot in Section 18, on the east side of the road. His gravestone has an image of a guitar and harmonica etched into it.