Little Walter makes it to heaven
March 11, 2008 8:01 PM   Subscribe

Little Walter ushered into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame As I heard about the entry of Madonna, Leonard Cohen, the Ventures and the Dave Clark 5 into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame yesterday, one name way at the end of the list brought music to my ears. Little Walter Jacobs was only the best blues harmonica player ever to come out of Chicago from the Delta. Ever. Period. He has influenced everyone you every thought was a good blues harmonica player.

After learning to play growing up in Lousiana, he made his way as an itinerant musician throughout the south, finally ending up in Chicago. He developed an innovative technique of cupping a microphone while playing harmonica which allowed him to compete with the newly-amplified blues emerging in south Chicago after the war. As a regular Muddy Waters sideman, he was blowing his heart out at the center of the blues universe. Then he died in a bar fight in 1968.

Personal favorite of his include My Babe, Flying Saucer, Boom Boom, Dead Presidents. Here are a couple clips on You Tube performing with Hound Dog Taylor and Koko Taylor.
posted by fellene (11 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, that's great news: much-deserved posthumous recognition for this great, great musician. Blues harp God, really.

Also, a little shoutout here to the composer of the song "Wang Dang Doodle", featured in the Koko Taylor clip : the great Willie Dixon, another RnR Hall of Fame inductee.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:25 PM on March 11, 2008

There's an apocryphal tale about how Little Walter used to drive around Chi in a Caddy that had NO DOORS so he could park and bolt quicker whenever his many creditors or cuckolds would hunt him down. Also: one touring version of The Jukes (LW's band) featured a teen-aged Albert Ayler!
posted by bonefish at 9:37 PM on March 11, 2008

If you've never experienced the innovative instrumental genius of Little Walter, classics like "Juke," "Off the Wall," "Mean Old World," "Sad Hours," "Blues with a Feeling," "My Babe," "Boom Out Goes the Light," "Last Night," "Mellow Down Easy" and "Roller Coaster" (written by Bo Diddley, who also guests on guitar) will come as a major revelation.

These are the recordings that changed the sound and style of blues harmonica forever, and everyone who came after him was as influenced by him as jazz saxophonists were by Charlie Parker. Everyone who fancies themselves a blues harmonica player should have this one in their collection as a textbook instructional tool, while the rest of us can just bask in the glow of his genius. "Essential first purchase" doesn't even begin to describe it.

posted by mediareport at 10:50 PM on March 11, 2008

I owe Little Walter a debt. I learned Juke very early on and ended up doing it as a duet with Carey Bell a mere 6 months later one wet Sunday afternoon in Sheffield.

I still love all his stuff (Mean old world still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up)... and anyone who thinks he just does blues should try and track down his version of Watermelon Man.
posted by itsjustanalias at 3:32 AM on March 12, 2008

Yay!! Little Walter r00lz.

Listening to "My Babe" now in celebration.
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:02 AM on March 12, 2008

Great first post, well worth waiting three and a half years to make! (Naturally, before I read down to the username I assumed this was by y2karl or flapjax.) Little Walter is indeed magnificent.
posted by languagehat at 6:10 AM on March 12, 2008

does anyone really care about the "Rock n Roll Hall of Fame". what an absurd idea... so Madonna is included? she doesn' t even 'rock'....
posted by mary8nne at 6:17 AM on March 12, 2008

And the Dave Clark 5 influenced who exactly? Pioneered what exactly? Puleeze. Save the HOF for true innovators like Little Walter.
posted by Gungho at 8:20 AM on March 12, 2008

Yes, of course.
posted by Pressed Rat at 9:51 AM on March 12, 2008

And the Dave Clark 5 influenced who exactly?

Well I for one wanted a mini moke desperately for about a year after I saw Catch Us If You Can. And who can forget the BBC Radio 1 roadshow's classic Bits 'n' Pieces [shudder]. Maybe there should be a Pop hall of fame too.

Sorry... I'll now go and listen to Sad Hours and I'm just your fool as penance hee hee, it's not penance at all: they're great
posted by itsjustanalias at 10:07 AM on March 12, 2008

Little Walter's always been a sort of hero of mine. Imagine my delight when my 8 year old came downstairs today (he was upstairs playing scrabble with mum/mom) and asked if 'Juke' was a word.
posted by unSane at 9:24 PM on March 12, 2008

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