Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Little Walter

Little Walter was born Marion Walter Jacobs on May 1, 1930 in Marksville, Louisiana. After quitting school by the age of 12, Jacobs left Louisiana and travelled wherever he chose, working odd jobs, busking and honing his musical skills with Sonny Boy Williamson and Big Bill Broonzy, among others.

Arriving in Chicago in 1945, he fell into the thriving Blues scene where Jacobs grew tired of being drowned out by electric guitarists, and developed a simple, but previously unused method: he cupped a small microphone in his hand while he played harmonica, and plugged the microphone into a guitar or public address amplifier. He could thus compete with any guitarist's volume, and furthermore, he utilized amplification to explore radical new timbres.

Little Walter made his first recordings in 1947 for the tiny Ora-Nelle label in Chicago. He joined Muddy Waters' band c. 1948, and by 1950 he was playing on Muddy's recordings for Chess Records. Tragically, the '60s saw the harp genius slide steadily into an alcohol. In 1964, he toured Great Britain with the Rolling Stones, but his once-prodigious skills were faltering badly.

Walter's eternally vicious temper led to his violent undoing in 1968. He was involved in a street fight and died from the incident's after-effects at age 37. His influence remains inescapable to this day. MP3: Rocker


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