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Little Walter

Who's the king of all post-war blues harpists, Chicago division or otherwise? Why, the virtuosic Little Walter, without a solitary doubt. The fiery harmonica wizard took the humble mouth organ in dazzling amplified directions that were unimaginable prior to his ascendancy. His daring instrumental innovations were so fresh, startling, and ahead of their time that they sometimes sported a jazz sensibility, soaring and swooping in front of snarling guitars and swinging rhythms perfectly suited to Walter's pioneering flights of fancy.

Marion Walter Jacobs was by most accounts an unruly but vastly talented youth who abandoned his rural Louisiana home for the bright lights of New Orleans at age 12. Walter gradually journeyed north from there, pausing in Helena (where he hung out with the wizened Sonny Boy Williamson), Memphis, and St. Louis before arriving in Chicago in 1946.

The thriving Maxwell Street strip offered a spot for the still-teenaged phenom to hawk his wares. He fell in with local royalty -- Tampa Red and Big Bill Broonzy -- and debuted on wax that same year for the tiny Ora-Nelle logo ("I Just Keep Loving Her") in the company of Jimmy Rogers and guitarist Othum Brown. Walter joined forces with Muddy Waters in 1948; the resulting stylistic tremors of that coupling are still being felt today. Along with Rogers and Baby Face Leroy Foster, this super-confident young aggregation became informally known as the Headhunters. They would saunter into Southside clubs, mount the stage, and proceed to calmly "cut the heads" of whomever was booked there that evening.

By 1950, Walter was firmly entrenched as Waters' studio harpist at Chess as well (long after Walter had split the Muddy Waters band, Leonard Chess insisted on his participation on waxings -- why split up an unbeatable combination?). That's how Walter came to record his breakthrough 1952 R&B chart-topper "Juke" -- the romping instrumental was laid down at the tail-end of a Waters session. Suddenly, Walter was a star on his own, combining his stunning talents with those of the Aces (guitarists Louis and David Myers and drummer Fred Below) and advancing the concept of blues harmonica another few light years with every session he made for Checker Records.

From 1952 to 1958, Walter notched 14 Top Ten R&B hits, including "Sad Hours," "Mean Old World," "Tell Me Mama," "Off the Wall," "Blues with a Feeling," "You're So Fine," a threatening "You Better Watch Yourself," the mournful "Last Night," and a rocking "My Babe" that was Willie Dixon's secularized treatment of the traditional gospel lament "This Train." Throughout his Checker tenure, Walter alternated spine-chilling instrumentals with gritty vocals (he's always been underrated in that department; he wasn't Muddy Waters or the Wolf, but who was?).

Walter utilized the chromatic harp in ways never before envisioned (check out his 1956 free-form instrumental "Teenage Beat," with Robert Jr. Lockwood and Luther Tucker manning the guitars, for proof positive). 1959's determined "Everything Gonna Be Alright" was Walter's last trip to the hit lists; Chicago blues had faded to a commercial non-entity by then unless your name was Jimmy Reed.

Tragically, the '60s saw the harp genius slide steadily into an alcohol-hastened state of unreliability, his once-handsome face becoming a road map of scars. In 1964, he toured Great Britain with the Rolling Stones, who clearly had their priorities in order, but his once-prodigious skills were faltering badly. That sad fact was never more obvious than on 1967's disastrous summit meeting of Waters, Bo Diddley, and Walter for Chess as the Super Blues Band; there was nothing super whatsoever about Walter's lame remakes of "My Babe" and "You Don't Love Me."

Walter's eternally vicious temper led to his violent undoing in 1968. He was involved in a street fight (apparently on the losing end, judging from the outcome) and died from the incident's after-effects at age 37. His influence remains inescapable to this day -- it's unlikely that a blues harpist exists on the face of this earth who doesn't worship Little Walter. ~ Bill Dahl
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Walter's Blues Remastered

1. My Babe

2. Sad Hours

3. You're So Fine

4. Last Night

5. Blues With A Feeling

6. I Can't Hold Out Much Longer

7. Juke

8. Mean Old World

9. Off The Wall

10. You'd Better Watch Yourself

11. Blue Lights

12. Tell Me Mama

13. Nobody But You

14. My Baby's Sweeter

15. Roller Coaster

16. As Long As I Have You

17. Oh Baby

18. Take Me Back

19. Everything's Going To Be Alright

20. Mellow Down Easy

21. Hate To See You Go

22. I Got To Find My Baby

23. Everybody Needs Somebody

24. Blue Midnight

25. Walter's Blues

x

Track List: So Fine

1. Juke

2. My Babe

3. Blues With A Feeling

4. I Can't Hold Out Much Longer

5. I've Got To Find My Baby

6. Take Me Back

7. Everybody Needs Somebody

8. Mean Old World

9. As Long As I Have You

10. Everything's Gonna Be Alright

11. Tell Me Who

12. Roller Coaster

13. Boom, Boom Out Goes The Light

14. Last Night

15. Youre So Fine

x

Track List: The Complete Chess Masters (1950 - 1967)

Disc 1

1. Evans Shuffle

2. Juke (Single Version)

3. Juke (Alternate Take)

4. Can't Hold Out Much Longer

5. Can't Hold Out Much Longer (Alternate)

6. Blue Midnight (Alternate Take)

7. Blue Midnight

8. Boogie

9. Mean Old World

10. Sad Hours

11. Fast Boogie

12. Fast Boogie (Alternate 1)

13. Fast Boogie (Alternate 2)

14. Fast Boogie (Alternate 3)

15. Don't Need No Horse

16. Driftin'

17. Driftin' (Alternate)

18. Don't Have To Hunt No More

19. Crazy Legs

20. Tonight With A Fool

21. Off The Wall (Alternate Version)

22. Off The Wall

23. Tell Me Mama

24. Quarter To Twelve

25. That's It

Disc 2

1. Blues With A Feeling (Alternate Take)

2. Blues With A Feeling

3. Last Boogie

4. Too Late (Single Version)

5. Fast Boogie

6. Lights Out

7. Fast Large One

8. You're So Fine

9. My Kind Of Baby

10. Come Back Baby

11. Rocker

12. I Love You So (Oh Baby)

13. Oh Baby (Single Version)

14. I Got To Find My Baby (Alternate Take)

15. I Got To Find My Baby

16. Big Leg Mama

17. Mercy Babe (My Babe)

18. Last Night

19. You Better Watch Yourself

20. Blue Light

21. Instrumental

22. Last Night

23. Mellow Down Easy

24. My Babe

25. My Babe (Overdubbed Version)

Disc 3

1. Thunderbird

2. Roller Coaster

3. I Got To Go

4. Hate To See You Go (Extended)

5. Little Girl

6. Crazy For My Baby

7. Can't Stop Lovin' You

8. One More Chance With You

9. Who

10. Boom, Boom Out Goes The Light

11. It Ain't Right

12. Flying Saucer

13. It's Too Late Brother

14. Teenage Beat

15. Take Me Back

16. Just A Feeling

17. Nobody But You

18. Temperature (Version 1)

19. Shake Dancer

20. Everybody Needs Somebody

21. Temperature (Alternate 1)

22. Temperature (Alternate 2)

23. Temperature (Take 30)

24. Temperature (Take 35-38)

25. Temperature (Version 2)

26. Ah'w Baby (Alternate)

Disc 4

1. Ah'w Baby

2. I've Had My Fun (Alternate)

3. I've Had My Fun (Alternate 2)

4. I've Had My Fun

5. The Toddle

6. Confessin' The Blues

7. Key To The Highway

8. Rock Bottom

9. Rock Bottom

10. Walkin' On (Rock Bottom Alternate)

11. You Gonna Be Sorry (Someday Baby) (Take 5)

12. You Gonna Be Sorry (Someday Baby) (Alternate)

13. You Gonna Be Sorry (Someday Baby)

14. One Of These Mornings (Instrumental)

15. Baby

16. My Baby Is Sweeter (Alternate)

17. My Baby Is Sweeter

18. Crazy Mixed Up World (Alternate)

19. Crazy Mixed Up World

20. Worried Life (Alternate)

21. Worried Life

22. Everything's Gonna Be Alright (Take 1)

23. Everything's Gonna Be Alright (Alternate 1)

24. Everything's Gonna Be Alright (Alternate 2)

25. Everything's Gonna Be Alright

26. Mean Old Frisco (Alternate)

27. Mean Old Frisco

Disc 5

1. Back Track

2. One Of These Mornings

3. Blue And Lonesome (Alternate)

4. Blue And Lonesome

5. Me And Piney Brown

6. Break It Up

7. Going Down Slow

8. You're Sweet

9. I Don't Play

10. As Long As I Have You

11. You Don't Know

12. Just Your Fool

13. Up The Line

14. I'm A Business Man

15. Dead Presidents

16. Southern Feeling

17. Back In The Alley

18. I Feel So Bad (Take 1)

19. I Feel So Bad (Take 2)

20. Chicken Shack

21. Feel So Bad

22. Make It Alright

23. Juke

x

Track List: His Best

1. Juke

2. Can't Hold Out Much Longer

3. Mean Old World

4. Sad Hours

5. Tell Me Mama

6. Off The Wall

7. Blues With A Feeling

8. You're So Fine

9. Too Late

10. Last Night

11. Mellow Down Easy

12. My Babe

13. Roller Coaster

14. Hate To See You Go

15. It Ain't Right

16. Boom, Boom Out Goes The Light

17. Confessin' The Blues

18. Key To The Highway

19. Everything's Gonna Be Alright

20. Just Your Fool

x

Track List: Confessin' The Blues

1. It Ain't Right

2. Rocker

3. I Got To Find My Baby

4. Lights Out

5. One More Chance With You

6. Crazy Legs

7. Temperature

8. I Got To Go

9. Crazy Mixed Up World

10. Quarter To Twelve

11. Confessin' The Blues

12. The Toddle

13. Up The Line

14. Rock Bottom

15. Mean Old Frisco

x

Track List: The Essential Little Walter

Disc 1

1. Juke (Single Version)

2. Can't Hold Out Much Longer (Single Version)

3. Boogie

4. Blue Midnight (Alternate Take)

5. Mean Old World (Single Version)

6. Sad Hours (Single Version)

7. Don't Need No Horse

8. Tell Me Mama (Single Version)

9. Off The Wall (Single Version)

10. Quarter To Twelve

11. Blues With A Feeling (Single Version)

12. Too Late (Single Version)

13. Fast Boogie

14. Lights Out

15. Fast Large One

16. You're So Fine (Single Version)

17. Oh Baby (Single Version)

18. I Got To Find My Baby

19. Last Night

20. You Better Watch Yourself

21. Mellow Down Easy (Single Version)

22. My Babe (Single Version)

23. Roller Coaster (Single Version)

24. Little Girl

Disc 2

1. Hate To See You Go (Single Version)

2. Boom, Boom Out Goes The Light (Single Version)

3. It Ain't Right (Single Version)

4. It's Too Late Brother

5. Just A Feeling

6. Ah'w Baby

7. I've Had My Fun

8. Confessin' The Blues (Single Version)

9. Key To The Highway (Single Version)

10. Walkin' On

11. You Gonna Be Sorry (Someday Baby) (Alt.)

12. Crazy Mixed Up World

13. Worried Life

14. Everything's Gonna Be Alright (Single Version)

15. Back Track

16. Blue And Lonesome

17. I Don't Play

18. As Long As I Have You

19. Just Your Fool (Single Version)

20. Up The Line

21. Southern Feeling

22. Dead Presidents

x

Track List: Juke

1. You'd Better Watch Yourself

2. Last Night

3. Boom, Boom, Out Goes The Lights

4. Evans Shuffle

5. Thunder Bird

6. Tonight With A Fool

7. My Babe

8. Juke

9. I Got To Go

10. Mean Old World

11. I Can't Hold Out Much Longer

12. Too Late

13. Blues With A Feeling

14. Blue Lights

15. Tell Me Mama

16. Who

17. Come Back Baby

18. Sad Hours

19. Crazy For My Baby

20. Off The Wall

Comments

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Everything on Windy City Blues should be appended with (live)!
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Great I love little walter
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Good stuff!!
Nothing like some Litte Walter , Bailey's on the rocks , and my Lady !!
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Only 86,000 Little Walter stations?? A lot of people are missing out!!
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I can't disagree!!
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The King of the HARP , PERIOD ! David Lee Crswford
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Dunno inch cnn uhh thing Liu Liu b :)" :-/ LiU inn o h o o hobnob o o l hmmmm leT k lIt j p inn p
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Love Little Walter woww!
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traceyveroni c a 8 9 5
love my baby from the movie...
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After watching the Cadillac Records movie I had to listen to Little Walter on Pandora. He was truly an interesting guy. A G and Musician!
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geraldine.eh i n g e r
Mama like mama love Smile
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Hey little Walter,hey little Walter listen.hey little Walter.someo n e gonna gets the blues little Walter...
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He was gangster
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GREAT
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I personally think that Walter Horton was better.
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your heart is pure to love. and you are all in one
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Y
Tbomb
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Whhoooeeee! That was awesome!!
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Little Walter is a lot like Jimmy Reed, musically. To my knowledge, he's pretty much stayed away from the soul-blues fusion style of the King brothers. My Jimmy Reed station is generally pretty good about staying away from that side of blues, which isn't my cup of tea.
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Esta me yebo a otro tiempo en un instante amazing
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The greatest listen music station ever.
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Oh, wow!! His story is even sadder than that of Jimmy Reed. At least, Jimmy was able to clean up his act - and he remained being a dedicated family man, although his story is also sad.
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Love this guy. I told my friend I was listening to little Walter and he thought it was rap music.
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Just heard on car radio, and added to Pandora station. I've instantly became one of his biggest fans, listening to his fun for all age's heart grabbing, make you mentally and physically want to sway a southern style! Fun, talented, and unique. Quality of life, is sometimes better then quantity of life for troubled situation's. Tragic what happened to him, he had endless potential. May his legacy live on!
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Love that mean Harmonica
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Little Walter is great .
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I'M A LONGHAUL TRUCKER. AND EVERY NOW AND THEN FOR A TOUSAND, MILES NUTTIN BUT THE BLUES.
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REMEMBER MY DAD MOM AND UNCLES GOING TO HIS LIVE SHOWS. COMING HOME LIT UP AND TALKING ABOUT THE GOOD TIME THEY HAD, THEN THE CADDILAC, RECORDS MOVIE. HAD TO BE SOME GOOD TIMES.
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To have Walters son is rhe. Best.
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lol
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the Best ever no ? about it
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The best. Love you . Can't nobody touch you.
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One of a kind
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My babe rules
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very good harp player
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Ilj was the very best.
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The blues leave your soul feeling so good! I love listening to Walters sing and play the blues
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I met Little Walter thru my aunt about 2 months before his untimely death. I had been a fan of his for years and was really shocked when I heard of his demise when I woke up one morning hearing his music being played one after another.
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so bad!!!God blessed this man to his SOUL!
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One Word...Wow!
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The Blues is Little Walter
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Genius!
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this that s**t
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jbetler
When I think about how great Little Walter's talents and legacy are, I also can't help but wonder how much more we could have had if he got to live a full life. He is still the GOAT!
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scottcampbel l 1 9 5 8
The baddest harp player who ever lived.
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this was my hommie..who dat nation
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This is the reeeaalll deal let it live oooh yeah who's your DADDY baby
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Little Walter was the greatest of all times harmonica player. No one came close to him period. Fred D Shurn Maywood Illinois
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This man was to electric blues harp what S.R.V. was to guitar!!! R.I.P.
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a big big reason i plays da harps
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