Little Walter

American blues harmonica player (1930-1968)

Little Walter, born as Marion Walter Jacobs, (*May 1, 1930 in Marksville, Louisiana †February 15, 1968 in Chicago, Illinois) was an American blues harp player. He was very important for the development of playing harp.

Little Walter
Statue in front of Jazzinstitut Darmstadt-Bessungen
Statue in front of Jazzinstitut Darmstadt-Bessungen
Background information
Birth nameMarion Walter Jacobs
Also known asLittle Walter
Born(1930-05-01)May 1, 1930
Marksville, Louisiana
OriginChicago, Illinois, United States
DiedFebruary 15, 1968(1968-02-15) (aged 37)
Chicago, Illinois
GenresBlues, Chicago blues, rhythm & blues
InstrumentsHarmonica, vocals, guitar
Years active1945–1968
LabelsChess,[1] Ora-Nelle, Parkway, Regal, Chance, Tempo-Tone, Checker

Biography change

Jacobs was born in Marksville, Louisiana and grew up in Alexandria, Louisiana, where he first learned to play the harmonica. At the age of 12 he left school and travelled around. He played in the streets of New Orleans, Memphis, Helena, Arkansas and St. Louis and made his living. He learned more about playing harp from Sonny Boy Williamson II, Sunnyland Slim, Honeyboy Edwards and others.

1945 he went to Chicago. There he made first recordings playing guitar for Floyd Jones. Frustrated about the fact that guitars were louder than his harmonica he started using a microphon and pluging it into the guitar amplifiers. So he could compet with any guitar sound. 1947 he did his first recordings for a small label in Chicago. 1948 he became member of Muddy Waters band and recorded with him for Chess records.[1] First he played acoustic, the first appearance on record of Little Walter's amplified harmonica sound was on Muddy's "Country Boy"/"Too Young To Know" (Chess 1452), recorded on July 11, 1951.

His first hit record was "Juke", an instrumental, which was intended to be the signature song of Muddy Waters band. The song was published on Checkers, a sub label of Chess. It stayed 20 weeks in the charts, eight of them on #1. Till 1957 he played with Muddy Waters but in this year he was replaced by Junior Wells. Walter took his band "The Aces" and renamed them into "The Jukes". Walter had a lot of hits, f.e. "My Babe"[1] written by Willie Dixon, but with the beginning of the 1960s his success faded away.

1964 and 1967 he came with the American Folk Blues Festival to Europe. After his second tour he was involved in a fight during a concert break. Although he was not severely injured he died in the night due to an heart failure. He was buried on February 22, 1968 at St. Mary's Cemetery in Evergreen Park, IL on February 22, 1968.

His influence can be heard in every modern blues harp player, from blues greats such as Junior Wells, James Cotton, George "Harmonica" Smith, Carey Bell, and Big Walter Horton, through modern-day masters Sugar Blue, Billy Branch, Kim Wilson, Rod Piazza, William Clarke, and Charlie Musselwhite, in blues-rock crossover artists such as Paul Butterfield, Southside Johnny (who named his band The Asbury Jukes after Little Walter's band), and John Popper of the band Blues Traveler.

Records change

  • 1964 Little Walter Pye
  • 1967 Super Blues Chess
  • 1969 Hate To See You Go Universal Distribution
  • 1986 Windy City Blues [live] Blue Moon
  • 1992 Juke Snapper
  • 1997 His Best (Chess 50th Anniversary Collection) MCA / Chess
  • 1997 Confessin' the Blues MCA/Chess
  • 1997 Blues With a Feelin' MCA/Chess
  • 2000 Live in the Windy City Columbia River Entertainment Group
  • 2004 Classics 1947–1953 B&R Classics
  • 2005 Little Walter 1947–1953 Classics
  • 2005 Juke - Proper Introduction to Little Walter Proper
  • 2006 Stray Dog Blues Rev-Ola
  • 2006 The Essential Blue Archive-Blues With a Feeling Blue Label (SPV)
  • 2008 Blowin' the Blues Music Ave
  • 2008 Classics 1953–1955 B&R Classics
  • 2009 The Complete Chess Masters (1950–1967) Hip-o Select

Singles in the charts change

Little Walter made 15 singles that reached the Billboard R&B chart.

Year Title Catalog No. Chart #
1952 "Juke" Checker 758 1
"Sad Hours" Checker 764 2
1953 "Mean Old World" 6
"Tell Me Mama" Checker 770 10
"Off the Wall" 8
"Blues with a Feeling" Checker 780 2
1954 "You're So Fine" Checker 786 2
"Oh, Baby" Checker 793 8
"You Better Watch Yourself" Checker 799 8
"Last Night" Checker 805 6
1955 "My Babe" Checker 811 1*
"Roller Coaster" Checker 817 6
1956 "Who" Checker 833 7
1958 "Key to the Highway" Checker 904 6
1959 "Everything Gonna Be Alright Checker 930 25

*Also reached #106 on the Billboard Pop chart.

Sources change

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Hear Little Walter (music and interviews) on the Pop Chronicles (1969).