I’m Not Done Yet’

Hubert Sumlin, the progenitor of a sound that has roots in the Mississippi Delta, will play at Centenary College as part of a two day blues festival.

Photo by Annie Leibovitz.

Before there was Keith Richards, before there was Eric Clapton, before there was Jimi Hendrix, there was the bluesman Hubert Sumlin.

Sumlin, 79 and a resident of Totowa, is the progenitor of a sound that has roots in the Mississippi Delta but long ago seeped into the guitar strings of the rock legends.

“They’re nice people. I’ve played with all of them,” says Sumlin from his living room while his constant companion—an oxygen tank—whirrs at his side.

Since Sumlin had a lung removed in 2002 as a result of lung cancer, he has lived in the Totowa home of his manager, Toni Ann Mamary, and her elderly parents. There, he passes the days reading and walking Rocky, his miniature Schnauzer. Twice a week, Mamary shuttles him to Manhattan for respiratory therapy sessions. Lately, he has been taking time to perform in the area. On March 12, he will appear at Centenary College as part of the two day Centenary Mini Blues Festival.

A Mississippi native, Sumlin spent 27 years as guitarist for the legendary blues belter Howlin’ Wolf. These days, he performs with his oxygen tank hitched to his nose but is nonetheless pleased that he can still climb onstage with his guitar. “I love what I’m doing,” Sumlin says. “I’m still here for a reason, and it’s to play this music. I’m not done yet.”

Tickets to the Mini Blues Festival are available at centenarystageco.org.

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