Born November 16, 1931 in Greenwood, Mississippi. Sumlin was born in Mississippi but raised in Arkansas, just outside West Memphis. He learned to play the drums before he picked up a guitar. In 1954, after a brief stint with James Cotton, Sumlin joined Howlin' Wolf's band and moved to Chicago. He played guitar in Howlin' Wolf's band for twenty-five years. His guitar playing was a integral part of Wolf's sound, and was as much a trademark as Wolf's growling vocals. Sumlin played on all of Wolf's classic Chess recordings, including "Spoonfull", "I Ain't Superstitious", "Smokestack Lightnin'", "Back Door Man", and "The Red Rooster". Sumlin has played and recorded with James Cotton, Eric Clapton, Eddie Taylor, Willie Dixon, Sunnyland Slim and Muddy Waters.
Sumlin is an acknowledged hero to many famous guitarists including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Keith Richards. Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin said "Sumlin is one important person...I love Hubert Sumlin." In 1989, Sumlin moved from Chicago to the northwest side of Milwaukee.