An appreciation of the late Robert “Wolfman” Belfour – by Pete Evans
Posted on: Saturday, Feb 28, 2015
It was with deep sadness that I heard this week of the passing on 24th February of Robert “Wolfman” Belfour – one of the last of the original North Mississippi Hill Country blues men, at the age of 74.
He was born in Red Banks in North Mississippi, in a sharecropping family, and was taught guitar at an early age by his father, Grant Belfour. He then came under the influence and was taught by legendary Hill Country blues men R L Burnside and Junior Kimbrough. However, his father died when Robert was 13 and so then followed many years of hard work in the construction industry by which time he had married and moved to Memphis. It was not until he was in his late 40s that he began playing guitar again on Beale Street and it was in Memphis after a period of ill health and hospitalisation where he died.
I first read about him in 1998 in Robert Nicholson’s book “Mississippi – The Blues Today” and then I heard him on the compilation “The Spirit Lives On, Deep South Country Blues and Spirituals in the 1990s” released by eminent blues scholar Professor David Evans (no relation!) in 1994.
Following on from this he released two superb albums on Fat Possum – “What’s Wrong With You” in 2000 and “Pushing My Luck” in 2003. Both albums were highly regarded in the blues press. I first saw him live in 2006 in Clarksdale on the first BITNW trip to The King Biscuit and I was spellbound by the classic hypnotic rhythms of the Mississippi Hill Country style on such classics as “Black Mattie”.
(Robert Belfour at Worthenbury Village Hall)
Little did I realise that in December of that year he would appear at our little club in Worthenbury which as it happened was his only gig ever in the UK in a blues club – though he did appear at Stamford Arts Centre and a church near Peterborough and a Memphis package festival at The Barbican in London.
On our return from Mississippi I was contacted by a friend of ours, Gerard Homan, who runs the legendary Shakedown Blues Club in Castor near Peterborough. He was bringing Robert over to play in Stamford and Peterborough and asked me if we would also like a gig to help pay for his airfare. We naturally agreed and Paul Taylor, Ian Williams and I drove to Stamford to hear his gig on the Friday before driving him back to appear in Worthenbury on Saturday, 16th December.
The gig was amazing and our regulars still refer back to the night with great fondness. The wonderful gentleman played for nearly three hours, allowing for a 40 minute break when on going out for a cigarette he decided to go for a walk and got lost! Luckily for us, he returned in fine form and his second set was one of the most memorable moments in all of years in presenting live blues.
We would see him on quite a few more occasions in Clarksdale as he was a regular at the famous old juke joint Red’s Lounge and at Roger Stolle’s Cathead mini festivals and every time, immaculately attired in a three-piece suit, he’d would come over and shake our hands and ask after our health.
A truly wonderful gentleman, he was a throw back to a sadly declining era of Mississippi blues and he will be deeply missed in the blues world .