Wolf Records is an Austrian record label based in Vienna. Simply its emphasis is the blues. Today where nearly every second rate “pop star wanna be” attempts to incorporate the blues the need for a true representative of this music existed.
The story of Wolf Records began in 1974, as 20 daring Austrian blues fans founded the Vienna Blues Fan Club (Mozart, too, would have rolled over!). Hungry for the blues played by the original artists, the club had enticed many of the blues favorites to Austria.
Through 1981 the likes of J. B. Hutto, Honeyboy Edwards, Eddie Taylor, Louis Myers, Homesick James, Snooky Pryor, Brewer Philips, Ted Harvey, Detroit Junior, Houston Stackhouse and Henry Townsend had come to play their specialty. From these tours came the television series “Fatty’s Saloon” hosted by Fatty George, which captures the highlights of these successful club appearances and two recordings, a sampler “Chicago Blues Live” and “Sad And Lonesome” featuring Homesick James and Snooky Pryor. Earmarked as the beginning of the Austrian blues scene, this genre of music has since exploded.
Undertaken by four of the club members (two of which remain: Dr. Herbert Pessiak and Hannes Folterbauer) the Vienna Blues Fan Club in 1982 trans-formed into what is now Wolf Records. The label was formed with two purposes in mind: re-releasing original country and blues recordings of the 30s and 40s, as compiled by Johnny Parth, and emphasizing the blues style of Chicago, home of the greats. The first Chicago Blues recordings included “Ingleside Blues” by Brewer Phillips and the combined effort of Eddie “Big Town Playboy” Taylor, Jimmy Walker, Smokey Smothers and Birmingham Jones.
The first 4 years of sales for Wolf Records were minimal. It wasn’t until the best selling release of Chicago’s superstar Magic Slim and the Teardrops that sales began to move. And, not only was Magic Slim’s release a fast seller, but it won the WC Handy Award for the best blues recording of the year. That was 1986; since then Wolf Records has been sinking its teeth deeper.
THE CHICAGO BLUES SESSION SERIES (57 recordings to date) put the Wolf Record label to the forefront of the Chicago Blues scene, in addition to another pair of WC Handy Awards for Magic Slim and Wolf Records. “Down Home” field recordings gave the Wolf label something special to speak about... another WC Handy Award for the “Giants Of Country Blues Guitar – Vol. 1” release.
In 1990 Wolf cutlined tours for its roster of artists and others, featuring none other than Magic Slim & The Teardrops and Eddie Shaw & The Wolf Gang. Nuturing talents on the homefront, Wolf Records has compiled the Austrian Blues Summit-CD, which features Hans Theessink, Mojo Blues Band, Dana Gillespie, Hooked On Blues and many more. Also Wolf recorded one more CD by Europe’s best women blues singer, Dana Gillespie, and the great newcomers Christian Dozzler & Blues Wave and Peter Garstenauer.
On the international scene Wolf Records is proud to present the best of Chicago live recordings during the well known Chicago Blues Festival. Performing in and around the famous Chicago club circuit – Buddy’s Legend, Checkerboard, Kingston Mines, Blues Etcetera, B.L.U.E.S., House Of Blues, and Blue Chicago, to name a few, will feature Wolf recording artists such as Magic Slim & The Teardrops, Willie Kent, Vance Kelly, Eddie Shaw, Dave Myers, Carey Bell, Booker T. Laury, and others.
Wolf Records would like to extend its thanks and gratitude for the hard work by our U.S. reps, Willie Kent, Phil Hammer, John Primer, Paul Smith, Brett Bonner, Ray Copeland, Ron Bartolucci, Carl Meyer, Anthony Brisbin, and to the many others who continue their support. We are proud of you all.
And, in 1995 Wolf has been eating more... many productions by traditional blues musicians such as Houston Stackhouse, U. P. Wilson and contemporary blues artists Vance Kelly, Michael Coleman, Johnny Laws, Nick Holt, Johnny B. Moore, to name a few.
Also Wolf Records was really proud to win a Living Blues Award 1995 for the best contemporary blues CD of 1994, Vance Kelly “Call Me” (120.977 CD).
In 1996 and 1997 Wolf continues its national and international activities:
Wolf Records USA was founded in 1996 with the help of JoAnne Larson. Chicago was then the center for the mail order service for the US. Wolf Records USA celebrated its opening with a show at Buddy Guy’s Legends. But unfortunately Wolf USA never made it into the next century. In April 1999 Wolf Records USA closed.
Back in 1996 Magic Slim came for two more tours to Europe! In 1997 Wolf artists Willie Kent and Eddie Shaw got each a W.C. Handy Award and a Living Blues Award for their great music. And of course Wolf Records found another new talent in Chicago: Edward Taylor produced his first CD as a tribute to his father Eddie “Big Town Playboy” Taylor. In addition, Wolf succeeded in bringing back a great blues artist: Little Mack Simmons recorded a new CD after an absence of 20 years!
On the Zoo Bar Collection, which now comprises 6 CDs, you can hear the best Chicago blues has to offer. Also we want to state that the Chicago blues scene can’t be imagined without Wolf artists: L. V. Banks, Johnny B. Moore, John Primer, Michael Coleman, Vance Kelly, and Johnny Laws. All of them have released their first CDs on Wolf!
During the past 5 years, Wolf Records has organized European tours for Vance Kelly & The Backstreet Blues band (twice), Willie Kent & His Gents, and John Primer. In autumn of 2000, Wolf Records artists John Primer & Magic Slim were special guests at the Lucerne Blues Festival.
In 2001, Vance Kelly won the prestigious Chicago Music Award.
In 2000, Kelly recorded his first live CD for our label, “Live at Lee’s Unleaded.”Other current waxing for Wolf Records include new recordings by Johnny Dollar (his first album after 20 years), Edward Taylor, and a “Tribute to Elmore James” CD by John Primer, all produced in Chicago.
Recent CD releases on Wolf Records by Vera Taylor, Easy Baby, and L. V. Banks were very well received by both critics and fans. Unfortunately, Vera Taylor, the widow of the late Chicago blues legend Eddie Taylor, passed away just two months after finishing recording her excellent Wolf CD.
Harp player/singer Alex “Easy Baby” Randle, however, is enjoying a resurgence of his career on the blues scene after the release of his acclaimed CD on Wolf Records. On the more traditional side of blues, Wolf Records was very successful with the CD “The very best of Texas Blues Piano” (120.929 CD), and with two CDs by Santa Cruz guitarist/singer Robert Lowery.
Further releases in Wolf Records’ “Blues Classics” series by Charley Patton and Blind Willie McTell received very positive reviews, as did the “Harmonica Blues” CD in our “Best of” series.
In the last three years Wolf Records produced more great traditional Blues CDs with CeDell Davis & Hermann Alexander (120.920), Big Boy Crudup (BC 005) and Al Cook (120.972 & 120.973). Also the Best of Blues series (BoB) got great new artwork and liner notes, so did some CDs of the WSE-series. New CDs by Eddie Taylor Jr. (120.811), Vaan Shaw (120.894) and the CD 120.807 (Best of Chicago’s West- & Southside Blues Singers) documents that Wolf Records presents still the best of Chicago Blues. The Lucerne Blues Festival
2003 presented Vance Kelly & The Back Street Blues Band and “Teardrops” Nick Holt & John Primer also toured Europe. Vance Kelly also was a highlight at the Chicago Blues Festival 2004, so did Eddie & Vaan Shaw. In the last three years Wolf records has to reduce his production costs cause the different distributors wanted consignment deals – anyway Vance Kelly recorded another great studio CD (120.815 CD), so did his daughter Vivian (120.812 CD – “Hit me Up”) and Eddie Taylor Jr. with his third CD for Wolf “Mind Game” (120.813 CD).
Also Wolfs “Superstar” Magic Slim, recorded another great CD for Wolf with live and studio recording (120.809 CD – “Tin Pan Alley”). Also we produced great new CD’s from European musicians, Dana Gillespie (120.974 CD – “These Blue Nights) and Al Cook (120.873 CD – “The Birmingham Jam”). We did again Country Blues CD’s, prewar Blues CD’s (BC 005 – Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup “The Father of Rock ’n’ Roll”, BC 006 – “Big Bill Broonzy “Big Bill Blues” and WSE 177 – “Best of Country Blues Women Vol. 1”), postwar blues CD’s (120.920 – Hermann Alexander & CeDell Davis “Giants of Country Blues Vol. 5”) and the Best of Series (120.104 CD – “Blues Guitar Killers”).
2006 was also a very sad year for Wolf Records: Many artists, who wrote the WOLF Story, died this year: Henry Townsend, Homesick James & Snooky Pryor, who produced the first two WOLF CD’s ever 30 years ago, and the great Bonnie Lee.
In February 2006 we lost Willie Kent. He wasn’t only a friend of Wolf owner Hannes Folterbauer, also a producer (he produced the first Johnny B. Moore CD ever for Wolf) and singer and bass player.
2008 Wolf produced another great CD by Vance Kelly. This time it was the first “blues only” CD by Vance (120.818). Also Eddie Taylor Jr. became a highlight in the Chicago blues scene: At every Chicago blues CD session, where somebody needs an "original“ Chicago blues guitarist he is present. He recorded 2008 his fourth (!) CD with Wolf Records. Also in the Blues Classics Series were two CD’s released - BC 007 Leroy Carr and BC 008 Memphis Slim.
Beginning December Wolf producer Hannes Folterbauer had the idea to produce a “back to the roots”-CD called “From The Country To The City” (120.819). This is a CD where Chicago blues artists Harmonica Hinds, Eddie Taylor Jr. and Tré played acoustic down home blues.
At the Chicago Blues Festival 2008 in June many Wolf Artists performed. Eddie Taylor Jr., Demetria Taylor, Magic Slim & His Teardrops, Eddie Clearwater were highlights at the festival.
2009 and 2010 were also successful years for Wolf records:
2009 we produced the great CDs by Chicago artists Magic Slim, Smilin’ Bobby and Elmore James Jr. 2010 we produced the CDs by R.L. Burnside and John Primer, who got great reviews in all blues mags.
Wolf artist MAGIC SLIM toured Europe twice last year and played also two great concerts in Wolf recs. hometown, Vienna! All Wolf CDS got in the Living Blues radio charts!
In 2012 Wolf Records celebrated its 30th anniversary in Vienna. A special sold out concert took place at the Vienna “Akzent Theatre” to commemorate this event. The evening was tremendous success and unforgettable for the audience as well as the artists, who have all been friends for ages and remembering the past thirty years together that day.
Special guest were Eddie Taylor Jr. and Harmonica Hinds, Dana Gillespie, the Mojo Blues Band, Al Cook and many others.
Dana Gillespie produced another CD with us in 2011 “Best of Mystique Blues” featuring Joe Louis Walker and brand new CD’s by Eddie Taylor Jr., Vance Kelly and Elmore James Jr.
2013 we lost our greatest artist, Magic Slim. As we know today, his spirit is still there! His music will never die!
The next years there have been great historic recordings in Chicago Blues as well as in Country Blues:
We recorded a great Live CD with Vance Kelly at Kingston Mines, also historic live recordings (from the 1990- 1995) by John Primer & Magic Slim (with the CD 120.830 Magic Slim & The Teardrops – Pure Magic), who has been a long time in the radio charts.
In the Country Blues field we licensed great recordings by Harmonica “Terry” Bean, Louisiana Red found forgotten tapes from a Henry Townsend Tour in the 80’s in Austria.
We made also concert tours with Harmonica Hinds, Eddie Taylor Jr. (2012), Elmore James Jr. & Ed Williams (2013) and John Primer & The Real Deal Blues Band (2015). Also we recorded some of the concerts to release a great Live CD in 2016.
Last but not least we made a deal with the Windy City Blues Society, where different Wolf Artists (John Primer, Vance Kelly, Eddie Taylor Jr., Tré and many more) perform at the Chicago Blues Festival 2015 at their stage. Also Eddie Taylor Jr. presents there his new CD: Stop Breaking Down.
Wishing you all the best, Wolf leaves you with this thought:
THE BLUES WILL NEVER DIE!
I believe I first met Hannes Folterbauer at Wise Fools in Chicago, IL when I was in Magic Slim’s Band sometime in 1983? All I knew at this time was he wanted to record Magic Slim and the Teardrops. I could tell he really enjoyed our music. He wanted to record us right away. After recording us in Chicago he invited us to Vienna Austria where he is from to go on tour and to do more recording over there at his Ton Art Studio. This was first time I had recorded a record with a label. Hannes gave Slim and the Teardrops their first big break! He saw something special in us and wanted to bring us back to Vienna to share our music with his people.
Magic Slim, Nick Holt, Nate Applewhite and myself were very excited about this opportunity you knew how important it was to our career. Hannes is the first person to not only record us, but also bring us to Vienna, Austria.
He believed in my talent as well as Magic Slim. He was the first guy to ever record me as a solo artist as well. We recorded my first CD at A.C.M.E. Studio in Chicago back in 1991. The name of this CD was Poor Man Blues. Hannes was very easy to work with and I appreciated this chance he gave to me when all other record labels didn’t. I was now able to promote myself and share my music with the world. This was one of the biggest moments of my musical life.
In 1993 I did my second CD with Wolf Records called Blues Behind Closed Doors. This CD was recorded both in Vienna, Austria (Ton Art Studio’s) and in Chicago (ACME Studio). This is my favorite CD of all time. It has some of my greatest songs on it and I was very confident with this CD.
Cold Blooded Blues Man in 1994
Easy Baby at the Zoo Bar in 1997 (my first live CD)
It’s A Blues Life with my Real Deal Blues Band in 1998
Blue Steel was a CD focusing on my slide guitar style again with my Real Deal Blues Band in 2003
Then Hannes decided it was time for a “Best Of” John Primer CD so he did, “When They Call Me John Primer”, these are some of the best songs I have ever recorded with Wolf Records. It was released in 2012.
The most recent CD is a special CD to me called “You Can Make it If You Try”. This CD is just the Teardrops with me, Nick Holt and Earl Howell. All the songs were recorded live back in the 90’s. The CD is special to me because Slim and Nick are no longer with us.
I look forward to working with Wolf Records in the future. I have a lot more music left inside of me to be recorded and I am better than ever!
Many thanks to Wolf Records and especially to Hannes because he gave me my first chance and he taught me a lot about song writing, producing and recording. Hannes not only gave Magic Slim and I our first chance, but many other Chicago musicians we endorsed were also helped. Hannes really helped out the unknown’s, the ones that really needed that first break. Without him I don’t know where my career would be now. I am so happy for Hannes for getting this “Keeping the Blues Alive Award”, he is very deserving of this. Hannes and Wolf Records have kept the Blues alive for many, many years and I hope and pray they continue to work hard for many more years to come at helping out all the unknown’s needing that one big break.
A brand new LIVE CD with John Primer & The Real Deal Blues Band will be out soon!
The Story starts in Chicago in the summer of 1986 – I, Hannes Folterbauer, owner of Wolf Records, went to the Wise Fools Pub to see Magic Slim & The Teardrops perform. Wolf Records was founded in 1982 and had by that time already recorded Chicago greats such as Eddie Taylor, Brewer Philips & The Houserockers, Homesick James, Snooky Pryor and many others. I had seen Slim live for the first time in 1975 in a South Side Club where Bob Koester (Delmark Records) took me.
Since that time I have been a Magic Slim fan – until today! He was one of the greatest for me – like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and J.B. Hutto – for me he was J.B. Hutto without the slide.
That night at the Wise Fools Pub Slim played a terrific set with John Primer on guitar, Nick Holt on bass and Nate Applewhite on drums.
During a break I went to Slim and asked him if I could make a record with his guitar player, John Primer, because I would not have enough money to pay him! After thinking over for 5 or 10 minutes, Slim asked me: “How much money do you have?” I told him … $. He said to me: “OK. When do you have time for a record session – next Sunday?” So I arranged a recording session in Chicago, wrote down the songs I liked the most at the Wise Fools, and the session could start. Within 6 hours we recorded Slim & The Teardrops at their best – they (and Wolf Records) won a W.C. Handy Blues Award for that CD!From then on, Wolf Records & Magic Slim worked together for 26 years!
Slim recorded several live and studio CDs for us, mostly in Europe, but also in the U.S.
A CD together with Nick Holt and one of the Live CDs – “Live On The Road” – also won a W.C. Handy Blues Award.
A major accomplishment for Slim and Wolf Records was the live 5-CD “Zoo Bar Collection Vol. 1-5” and the only acoustic solo CD Slim recorded: Magic Slim “Alone & Unplugged” – thanks to Phil Hammer.
The landmark band with Jr. Pettis or John Primer as rhythm guitarists plus Slim’s live energy was captured perfectly at the Zoo Bar for posterity.
Slim made many tours to Europe – thanks to Didier Tricard and his mother – and Slim very often visited my hometown, Vienna. However, the largest crowd of people (40.000) came to a festival in Budapest, Hungary.
Slim & I never had any problems – only with the size of the beds, I knew I had to arrange for a big bed, otherwise Slim couldn’t rest comfortably!
I also saw Slim many times in Chicago (at B.L.U.E.S., blues etc., Buddy Guy’s Legends and Blue Chicago), the last concert was at Kingston Mines – its owner, Frank Pellegrino, made the best announcements for the Magic Man!
Magic Slim was a major part of the U.S. Blues culture, and therefore he is a national treasure. He created a band sound that was based on the 1930’s Mississippi Blues as modified by Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf to become electric Chicago Blues.
The first time I thought Slim would have serious health problems was at a gig at B.L.U.E.S. He took a drink from a so-called friend, but the drink was poisoned! Two songs into the next set, Slim suddenly collapsed. I thought that he had a heart attack, and an ambulance took him to a hospital. But when I visited him the next day at his south side home, he was O.K.!
Slim visited Vienna for the last time in 2010, so in 2012 I wanted to see Slim again at a concert in Germany, but he couldn’t make it. It was an empty feeling, a concert hall full of people – but no Slim. Now we know that he will never play again.
Because I had made some great recordings at his last Vienna concerts, I asked Marty Salzman – Slim’s manager – if we could do another great CD by Magic Slim & with his new Teardrops!
So in November 2012 we signed a contract. It proves that Slim played his music for 53 years with the same energy and love! His blues never became old!
Slim played the real, down home blues – he was a great singer, guitar player, showman and always played with his own band – the Teardrops! He didn’t want to play with other musicians, so he got a sound nobody else could reach! His band members were also great musicians: His brother Nick was a great singer and bass player, Jr. Pettis played great rhythm guitar, but John Primer was one of the best – he & Nick gave Slim the back-up he wanted, which will always be blues history.
We will miss Slim and he will always be in our hearts – with his music and as a human being!
CD 120.849 Magic Slim & The Teardrops
CD 120.856 Magic Slim & Nick Holt
CD 120.864 Magic Slim – Live “On The Road”
CD 120.301 – 120.305 Zoo Bar Collection Vol. 1 – Vol. 5
CD 120.809 Magic Slim – Tin Pan Alley
CD 120.820 Magic Slim & The Teardrops – Rough Dried Woman
CD 120.830 Magic Slim & The Teardrops – Pure Magic
CD 120.870 Magic Slim – Magic Blues
CD 120.882 Magic Slim – Alone & Unplugged
CD 120.895 Magic Slim & The Teardrops – 44 Blues
15 Years of Friendly Co-Operation
WILLIE KENT, 1936 - 2006
CD 120.867 Willie Kent Live In Chicago At B.L.U.E.S.
CD 120.876 Willie Kent & His Gents
CD 120.889 Willie Kent & His Gents Feat. Carlos Showers
I say thank you for what you have done for the people in Chicago, for your musician friends, for Wolf records and for me, Hannes Folterbauer.
I’m first of all: A blues fan. I came to Chicago in 1982 to record the blues legend Eddie Taylor in the Odyssey studio.
The band members were Tim Taylor on drums, Johnny B. Moore on guitar and Willie Kent on bass, – and they played the best Westside blues I ever heard.
After Eddie had died, I started working with Willie. Of course, he told me to record Johnny B. Moore with his band – this was our first project!! Willie promised that the recording session would be just two hours – and he told no lie – cause the musicians knew each other perfectly. We got second place at the W.C handy blues awards with this record.
This was the first LP by Johnny B., following with a sampler with then unknown Westside musicians like Barkin Bill, Mary Lane, Larry Taylor and Bonnie Lee!!
After that we recorded the first CD´s with Bonnie Lee, and Maxwell street Jimmy Davis. I asked Willie if he could help me to record such legends as Jimmy Rogers, John Brim, Hubert Sumlin and Pinetop Perkins. He agreed, so I had the chance to work together with these legends – the band at these sessions has often been the same: Tim Taylor, Willie Kent, Billy Branch on harp and the great guitar players John Primer and Johnny B. Moore!
So we created the “wolf – sound” which got famous for it’s ORIGINAL Chicago sound: part of culture of the US!!
Willie also brought me together with Eddie Shaw and the Wolf-gang, Billy Branch, Deitra Farr, Zora Young, Big Moose Walker and Lurrie Bell to name just a few!!
Last, but not least, I am proud to have recorded three CD´s with Willie himself and his Gents – the greatest project was to record him live at B.L.U.E.S. He was one of the last ones in Chicago with a deep ‘down home voice’ like Muddy or Wolf!! I can also say that his band played the real Westside blues which is a part of the US culture too!! Willie never wanted any money for making the connection to the musicians for me! I think he was just happy that they got a chance to record – he just played at the sessions his legendary bass lines and helped me with the contracts.
Willie wanted to record a fourth CD for Wolf but we could not do it – of course after the valley bankruptcy we had financial problems too. So I’m happy that also Delmark produced a lot of Willie Kent CD´s, that his work is well preserved on CD´s!
I’m also proud, having toured one week with Willie and his Gents in Austria, where we also produced a great CD!!
He was a nice person and if we had misunderstandings, we came together after a 5 minute discussion. I think that my steady work with Willie also helped him to get jobs on the Northside, because when I met him in the early 80´s, he just played on the West side! In the last years I always tried to meet Willie when I came to Chicago to see him playing at Blue Chicago. We would go out for lunch. I have often sent his CD´s to him from Austria as a part of royalties so he could sell them from the stage. I always trusted him and so he has done the same: trusting me. I think our friendship helped a lot of musicians to get a better reputation in Chicago and that they thought it made really good sense not to stop playing the blues!!
One last thing, all of you know that my English is really not good, but Willie and I never had problems with that – sometimes words are not the most important things! I thank Maurice that he said that to all of you. I will spend the money I would have paid for the plane ticket and hotel to Willie’s family – I think this will help a little bit!
But, as soon I come back to Chicago, I will visit his grave!!
Good bye, Willie.