Watch the Smokin' Stack online guitar lesson by Jeff McErlain from 30 Authentic Blues Grooves You MUST Know
Besides being co-opted for a Viagra commercial, Howlin' Wolf's "Smokestack Lightning" is one of the most influential blues tunes ever. It's a one chord vamp in E that is all vibe. The great guitar line throughout the tune is played by Hubert Sumlin, Wolf's long time guitarist. It is an art form to make a one chord vamp interesting, so please don't take this one for granted! Another interesting point about this tune is that it is neither major nor minor in tonality. This is a common and essential concept in the blues. It all comes down to how we treat the third of the chord. At no time am I really accentuating it, I may play over it, or tweak it a bit but I am never clearly defining it. This is an essential component to the sound of the blues.