Robert “Wolfman” Belfour has played the blues all of his life. His first teacher was his father Grant Belfour of Red Banks, MS, who died when Belfour was in his early teens. His father’s death left him with large responsibilities from a young age, and he worked at any job he could find to help support his family, finally getting into construction work in the 1960s.
Through these years, Befour played music when he could find the time, and while he has always enjoyed playing, he has been a somewhat reluctant performer and recording artist. His major influence in these years was Junior Kimbrough. The hill country style that Kimbrough played is closer to Mississippi Fred McDowell’s often single-chord based, hypnotically rhythmic sound than to Delta blues. R. L. Burnside, another hill country blues player, who received major recognition is his last years after decades of being known only to blues aficionados, was also a strong influence. Another influence was his wife Norene, who encouraged him to play out, initially for free on streets and in parks.
Belfour began performing in Memphis clubs in the 1980s and 90s, but wasn’t recorded until the 1990s, when some of his songs appeared on a German album compilation of modern rural blues, “The Spirit Lives On, Deep South Country Blues and Spirituals in the 1990s.” Belfour was recorded by blues researcher David Evans who encouraged him to expand his career. Evans also arranged for the first of several European tours for the bluesman, who, like many other Mississippi blues artists, became better known in Europe than in his homeland.
The songs on this album included hill country blues pieces like “Black Mattie” and Delta songs such as “Catfish Blues,” and also reflect the influence of John Lee Hooker and Lightnin’ Hopkins, who played in very improvisational ways when playing solo; Belfour plays solo on all of these tracks.
Thus Belfour really combines qualities of Delta blues and hill country blues. In 2000, the Mississippi label Fat Possum issued the first of two full Belfour albums, “What’s Wrong With You” featuring Belfour both with a band playing the hard-driving hill country juke joint sound that his mentor Kimbrough was famed for, and solo, with a less structured rhythmic approach. He followed that album with “Pushin’ My Luck” in 2003.
Belfour continues to perform his unique stylistic mix of blues. His wife’s death a few years ago was a major blow, but he continues on the musical path she encouraged to travel years ago.