How Many More Years

“How Many More Years”  is a blues song written and originally recorded by Howlin’ Wolf (born Chester Burnett) in July 1951.  Recorded at the Memphis Recording Service – which later became the Sun Studio – it was released by Chess Records and reached no. 4 on the Billboard R&B chart.  Musician and record producer T-Bone Burnett has described “How Many More Years” as “in some ways . . . the first rock ’n’ roll song . . .”.  It was a double-sided hit with “Moanin’ At Midnight”, which reached no.10 on the R&B chart.  (More from Wikipedia)

The very earliest power chords are credited to 1950’s bluesmen.  Music historian Robert Palmer (not the same man as the 1980’s singer named Robert Palmer by the way) cites Willie Johnson (on Howlin’ Wolfs “How Many More Years” that was recorded in 1951) and Pat Hare (on James Cotton’s “Cotton Crop Blues” that was recorded in 1954).  If the name of the former song rings a bell, you are likely remembering “How Many More Times”, the last and longest track on Led Zeppelin’s 1969 debut album, Led Zeppelin.  Under his real name, Chester BurnettHowlin’ Wolf got a songwriting credit on later editions of the album.  Anyway, the Brits liked what they heard and launched the British Invasion, and the rest is history. 


Whether or not Link Wray heard these records and got the idea has not been established as far as I know. 


(February 2013)


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The Jewish Business News post mentioned above also notes that Led Zeppelin’s case regarding Spiritclaim that the opening chords for Stairway to Heaven were lifted from their 1968 instrumental song Taurus”, is harmed by past copyright troubles:  “[Led Zeppelin was] forced to emend credits for ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and ‘Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You’ as well as settling a suit over ‘Dazed and Confused’.”  Not only that, I have written in the past about How Many More Times on Led Zeppelinwhere the band had to show a writing credit for Howlin’ Wolf, who had written How Many More Years previously. 


(November 2014)


Last edited: March 22, 2021