Little Walter
Marion Walter Jacobs
Little Walter

Born May 1, 1930, Marksville, LA; Died Feb 15, 1968 Chicago, IL

A taste of his harp from "My Babe"
Written by Willie Dixon
[290k, 26 secs.]
From: boss blues harmonica
Copyright Chess 1972

Little Walter could make his harp sound like a tenor sax, he was instrumental in defining the sound that is now known as Chicago blues harp. Singer, composer, bandleader and peerless harmonica virtuoso, Little Walter was unquestionably the single finest blues artist to have been produced by the post war Chicago blues movement. This is not to imply that his musical co-workers in that blues rich city - Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf and Elmore James among others were of any lesser importance or artistry, it's just that the great and powerful music of Muddy, Wolf and Elmore was at the core Mississippi country blues that had been brought to the city, where it gradually was modified and extended into the music that has since become known as modern Chicago blues. On the other hand, Little Walters music in virtually all its significant details was forged in the crucible of the emerging and maturing postwar Chicago Blues. He was the first great wholly modern bluesman, heir to no traditions other than those to which he, with Muddy, so greatly contributed in the early 1950's.

From the very start Walter was a modernist, and a musical innovator who had little overt respect for any tradition save that of his own making. In vain does one search his recordings for any evidence of traditional influences or for traces, however fugitive, of his sources or borrowings. They are simply not there. What is there, on the other hand is pure Walter. If there had been any appreciable influences on the development of his music, his own burning genius had long since blurred, absorbed and transformed them bye the time he had begun to record.

Even his earliest known recordings, made about 1947, for a small Maxwell Street record label, demonstrate his phenomenal instumental fluency and more than a hint at the powerful, distinctive vocal style he was to perfect a few years later.

It was as a menber of, and a vital contributor to the Muddy Waters band that Walter was given full rein to stretch his wings, and it is a tribute to Muddy's foresight and generosity of spirit that he early recognized Walter's great talent and allowed him every opportunity and encouragement to develop it. Muddy's band was always a great incubator of blues talent and Walter's is easily the brightest jewel in the crown.

Muddy had begun recording for CHESS in 1947 and had enjoyed some success the following year through a brilliant series of records made with only his electric guitar and Ernest "BIG" Crawford's percussive bass. Muddy then added second guitarist-drummer Leroy Foster, then Walter on harmonica and finally, Jimmy Rogers on guitar, Foster then switching to drums.

By the time this group of musicians appeared on record in 1950, the basic approach to modern ensemble blues had been fully shapped and refined, thanks primarily to their extensive club experience. Certainly the music they record was strong and breathtakingly vital. There is nothing tentative about the music at all. Think of the records -Louisinna Blues, Long Distance Call, Honey Bee, Howling Wolf, They Call Me Muddy Waters, Too Young To Know, She Moves Me, Still A Fool, among others, and all of them deserved classics of the postwar blues. None is less than remarkable and many are magnificent.

Foremost among their many virtues is the stunning level of the interplay among the musicians, and the great feeling of spontaneity, the wonderful "aliveness" of these records, that makes them so gripping. And one of the chief contributors to this is Walter, whose darting, probing, swooping, fluent, ever appropriate harmonica lines provide the perfect foil to Muddy's impassioned vocal and guitar efforts, the harp underscoring, answering, extending, countering, echoing but always enhancing them and in so doing imparting a wonderful sense of motion and energy to the music. It was the fluent, responsive character of Walter's playing, no less than the distinctive sound color of his amplified harp, which helped to make Muddy's records of the early 1950's the magnificent achievements they were and still are for that matter.

It was inevitable of course that Walter would leave Waters fold and strike out on his own and he took the step in 1952. Walter was backed by guitarists David and Louis Myers and drummer Fred Below (known as the Aces, this group had been working with Junior Wells), he made his first records for the CHESS subsiduary CHECKER records. CHECKER 758, coupling the magnificent instrumental Juke and the compelling vocal blues Can't Hold Out Much Longer, was an immediate hit in the rhythm and blues market and establised Walter as an important recording and performing artist in his own right.

This record not only signalled the arrival of a major, widely popular blues artist and illustrated the twin facets of Walter's talent, vocal and instrumental, but it offered further evidence of a thoroughly original blues conception. There was nothing casual or left to chance about either of the performances. Even Juke, which bears strong evidence of a planned spontaneity in execution, which is arranged in the sense that it provides for contrast through the use of "breaks" in the fifth chorus. Then, Walter's constant approach to the songs first two choruses is much to deliberate and controlled to be the result of mere chance. The fact he follows this format in the final chorus well confirms this impression.

Even more remarkable is the vocal blues Can't Hold Out Much Longer.This is a masterfully constructed piece of music in that it makes a highly interesting and original use of the standard 12 bar blues form. It follows an ABB scheme, the second and third lines of each verse being used as a refrain, and the first line consisting of four short phrases of text in which the song's "story line" is advanced. This makes for fairly dense text constuction and necessitates a quicker vocal delivery than is usual in the more common AAB 12 bar blues form. Actually this song is a slow blues, but thanks to Walters ingenious construction, appears to be rather brisk tempoed. Walter apparently found this an interesting way of structuring songs for he employed it, occasionally with slight variations, on a number of his recordings, including Your So Fine, You Better Watch Yourself, Tell Me Mama and Boom Boom (Out Go The Lights). He also used it as the normal stop time "break" chorus on songs such as Blues With A Feeling.

To a man ever musician who worked with Walter feels the experience to have added significantly to his musical knowledge, "Walter was simply a person you could always learn something from, just by being around him," recalled drummer Fred Below, a charter member of the Jukes who was associated with Walter for a number of years. "He was always calling rehearsals for us to go over new tunes or to tighten up on are old ones. And the funny thing was, nobody ever complained about the time spent rehearsing. We were learning, see? It was like Walter was running a school where you could really learn something you were interested in. The beautiful thing was you check out what you learned each day by playing in the club that night. And another funny thing it seemed like Walter was always right." Fred Below is not alone in considering his time spent with Walter to have been among the high points of his professional experience. Virtually every man who worked as a member of Walters band speaks with awe filled affection of his relationship with him

In the period 1952 through 1968, when he died as the result of head injuries sustained in a fight, Walter recorded in all about 100 titles for CHESS, of which slightly more than half were isssued on record, invariably as singles. Walter is widely regarded as the blues' greatest harmonica soloist, and there is no dening his prodigious virtuosity on this humble instrument. In his hands it became a strongly expressive blues voice of astonishing breadth and fluency, capable of ranging from the subtlest of nuances to the most powerful full-throated shouts and everything in between. Amplifying the instrument by means of a small microphone held in his cuppped hands, Walter's harmonica took on a swooping saxophone-like sound that was perfectly wedded to the distinctive, imaginative, highly exiting character of his improvisations, derived as they were from listening to jazz saxophonists and probably bop musicians.

From his very first to his very last record, Little Walter was unique among post war blues artists. From the outset he was a true original, a visionary musician whose natural mode of expression was the modern electrically amplified emsemble blues, to the development of which he had contributed so significantly. In the legacy of his recordings he has enriched even further those traditions with some of the finest, most perfectly achieved distillations of the art of modern blues ever recorded. Through his transcendent innovative genius Little Walter , singer, composer, bandleader and peerless harmonica virtuoso, helped to redefine and reanimate the blues and in doing so earned a secure place among the very greatest contributors to popular art America has given the world.

* Boss Blues Harmonica LP Liner notes by: Pete Welding

Little Walters Music.


The most thoroughly researched compliation listing yet, with all of Little Walter's recording sessions 1947-67, as sideman and leader. Nineteen spiral bound pages. $10 US/$12 Canada and overseas, postage paid. Checks or universal money orders payable to Tony Glover.

2919 Como Ave. S.E.
Mpls MN 55414

Little Walter (UpFront)

54-05-22 Chicago
Little Walter
Louis Myers; Robert Lockwood; Spann; Dixon; Below

58- Chicago
Little Walter
Spann?; Tucker; Dixon; Below.

58-11 Chicago
Little Walter
Muddy Waters; Luther Tucker; Spann; Dixon; George Hunter (drums)

59? Chicago
Little Walter
Spann, Lockwood, Tucker, Dixon, George Hunter

59-07-21 Chicago
Little Walter
Freddie Robinson; Luther Tucker; Spann; Dixon; George Hunter.

60- Chicago
Little Walter
Luther Tucker; Jimmy Rogers; Spann; Fred Robinson; Dixon; George Hunter.

60-12 Chicago
Little Walter
Freddie Robinson; Luther Tucker; Spann; Dixon; Below

Little Walter (Session Work)

52-09-17 Chicago (Chess, Len or Phil)
Muddy Waters
Little Walter; Jimmy Rogers; Spann; Elgin Edmonds (Evans)

54-01-07 Chicago (Chess, Len or Phil)
Muddy Waters
Spann; Dixon; Rogers; Little Walter; Fred Below or Elgin Evans

54-01-07 Chicago (Chess, Len or Phil)
Jimmy Rogers
Muddy Waters; Little Walter; Spann; Dixon; Fred Below or Elgin Evans

54-04-13 Chicago (Chess, Len or Phil)
Muddy Waters
Jimmy Rogers; Little Walter; Spann; Dixon; Fred Below or Elgin Edmonds

54-04-13 or 15 Chicago (Chess, Len or Phil)
Jimmy Rogers
Little Walter; Spann; Willie Dixon; Fred Below

54-05-22 Chicago
Coronets (vocal group); Little Walter; Spann; L. Myers; R. Lockwood; Dixon; Below

54-09-01 Chicago (Chess, Len or Phil)
Muddy Waters
Spann; Dixon; Little Walter; Rogers; Below

54-10/11 Chicago
Muddy Waters
Little Walter; Jimmy Rogers; Spann; Willie Dixon; Fred Below.

55-02-03 Chicago
Muddy Waters
Little Walter; Jimmy Rogers; Spann; Willie Dixon; Francis Clay

55-03-09 Chicago (Chess, Len or Phil)
Jimmy Rogers
Little Walter; Dixon; Spann; Below?

56- Chicago
Muddy Waters Little Walter; Jimmy Rogers; Pat Hare; Spann; Willie Dixon; Francey Clay.

56-12-01 Chicago
Jimmy Rogers
Little Walter; Wayne Bennett; Dixon; Spann; Below.

58-Fall Chicago (Chess, Len or Phil)
Muddy Waters
Spann; Little Walter; Hare; Tucker; Andrew Stephens; Clay.

60-04-23 Chicago
Muddy Waters
Little Walter; Pat Hare; Spann; Dixon; Clay or Willie Smith.

67-01 Chicago, Chess Ter Mar StudiosBass, Ralph
Super Blues
Muddy Waters, Little Walter, and Bo Diddley, with Spann; Lawhorn or Buddy Guy; Sonny Wimberly; Frank Kirkland, Leary or Clay.

Little Walter (Maybe)

55-10 Chicago (Chess, Len or Phil)
Muddy Waters
Walter Horton; Rogers; Spann; Dixon; Clay.

56- Chicago (Chess, Len or Phil)
Muddy Waters
Little Walter or Walter Horton; Spann; Jimmy Rogers or Pat Hare; Dixon; Clay.

56-12-01 Chicago (Chess, Len or Phil)
Muddy Waters
James Cotton or Little Walter; Pat Hare or Jimmy Rogers; Willie Dixon or Andrew Stephenson; Francis Clay; Spann

58- Chicago
Muddy Waters
Little Walter or James Cotton; Pat Hare; Spann; Andrew Stephenson or Dixon; Francis Clay.

58-11 Chicago (Chess, Len or Phil)
Muddy Waters
Little Water or James Cotton; J.T. Brown (ts)-1; Spann; Pat Hare; Luther Tucker or Fred Robinson; Andrew Stephenson or Dixon (b); Clay

Discography 1952-1963

This is a pretty comprehensive discography of Walter compiled by Jonathan Lloyd.
Thank you Jonathan for sharing this information.

May 12 1952	
	Vcl/hca; Muddy Waters, Jimmy Rogers, gtr; Elga Edmonds, dms.
	Juke inst  tk4 	Ch CD 9330
7437	Juke inst	Ckr758
7438	Can't Hold Out Much Longer	-
	Can't Hold Out Much Longer alt

Oct 1952
	Vcl/hca; Louis Myers, Dave Myers, gtr; Fred Below, dms.
	Blue Midnight inst  alt 	LRDB LP 2017
10502	Blue Midnight inst  10208 	Ckr955
1051	Boogie inst	Genesis 3  UK 
1052-2	Mean Old World	Ckr764
1053-2	Sad Hours inst	-

Jan 1953
	Add Ernest 'Big'Crawford, bss; Odie Payne ?, dms.
4318	Fast Boogie  Off The Wall 	unissued
	Fast Boogie alt
4319	Don't Need No Horse
4320	Driftin' Blues
	Driftin' Blues alt

Mar 1953
	Vcl/hca; Henry Gray, pnop; Louis Myers, Dave Myers, gtr; 
	Willie Dixon, bssb; Fred Below, dms.
4343	Don't Have To Hurt No More inst	Ckr 767  withdrawn 
43443	Crazy Legs inst b	Ckr 986
4345	Tonight With A Fool p	Ckr 767
	Off The Wall inst  alt b	Argo LP 4034
4348	Off The Wall inst b	Ckr 770
4349	Tell Me Mama b	-

Sep 1953
	Willie Dixon, bssb; Jimmy Rogersg, Dave Myers, gtr;	
	Fred Below, dms.
4394	Quarter To Twelve inst b g	Ckr780
4397	That's It
4398	Blues With A Feeling
	Blues With A Feeling alt
4399	Last Boogie inst	Genesis 3  UK 
4400	Too Late	Ckr 825
4401	Fast Boogie inst	Genesis 3  UK 
4402	Lights Out b g	Ckr 786
4403	Fast Large One inst	LRDB LP 2007
4404	You're So Fine	Ckr 786
	My Kind Of Baby	LRDB LP 2007

Feb 24 1954
	Vcl/hca; Luther Tucker, Robert Lockwood, gtr; 
	Willie Dixon, bss; Fred Below, dms.
7603	Come Back Baby	LRDB LP 2012
7604	Rocker inst	Ckr 793
7605	I Love You So / Oh Baby 	LRDB LP 2012
7608	Oh Baby	Ckr793

May 22 1954
	 + Otis Spann, pno.	
7653	I Got To Find My Baby	Ckr 1013
	I Got To Find My Baby alt
7654	Big Leg Mama inst	LRDB LP 2007

July 1 1954
	Vcl/hca; Robert Lockwood, Dave Myers, gtr; 
	Willie Dixon, bss; Fred Below, dms.		
7669	My Babe / Mercy Babe 	Ch  Can  LP 60003
7670	Last Night inst	Argo LP 4042

July 14 1954
7673	You'd Better Watch Yourself	Ckr799
7674	Blue Light inst	-

Oct 5 1954
	Luther Tucker replaces Myers:	
4415	Instrumental	LRDB LP 2017
4416	Last Night	Ckr 805
4417	Mellow Down Easy	-

Jan 25 1955
	Vcl/hca; Robert Lockwood, Leonard Caston, gtr; Willie Dixon, bss; 
	Fred Below, dms; dubbed chorus c. 
7776	Thunder Bird inst	Ckr 811
7777 4	My Babe
	My Babe c	Ckr 955

Apr 28 1955	
	Vcl/hca; Bo Diddley, g; Robert Lockwood.  Luther Tucker, gtr; 
	Willie Dixon, bss; Fred Below, dms.
7827	Roller Coaster inst g	Ckr 817
7828	I Got To Go

July 14 1955
7874	Little Girl	LRDB LP 2012
7875	Crazy For My Baby	Ckr 986
7876	Can't Stop Loving You	LRDB LP 2012

Aug 12 1955
7888	I Hate To See You Go	Ckr 825

Dec 1955
7966	One More Chance With You	Ckr838
7967	Who	Ckr833
7968	Boom, Boom Out Goes The Lights	Ckr867
7969	It Ain't Right	Ckr833

Mar 9 1956
8068	Flying Saucer inst	Ckr838

July 27 1956
8191	It's Too Late Brother	Ckr852
8192	Teenage Beat inst	Ckr 845
8193	Take Me Back	Ckr 852
8194	Just A Feeling	Ckr845

Mar 5 1957
8433	Nobody But You	Ckr859
8434	Temperature	LRDB LP 2012
8435	Shake Dancer inst	Ckr 1071
8436	Everybody Needs Somebody	Ckr859

June 20 1957
	Jimmie Lee Robinson ?, gtr;
	Temperature  tk 30 	LRDB LP 2007
	Temperature  tk 35&36 	Ch LP 6036/7  J 
8525	Temperature	Ckr867
	Ah'w Baby  alt 	Ch LP 60014
8526	Ah'w Baby	Ckr945
8527	I Had My Fun

Jan 1958	
	Vcl/hca; Lafayette Leake, pno/orgo; Luther Tucker, Jimmie Lee Robinson, gtr;
	Willie Dixon, bss; George Hunter, dms.
8644	The Toddle inst	Ckr890
8645	Confessin' The Blues o

Aug 1958
	Vcl/hca; Otis Spann, pno; Muddy Waters, Luther Tucker, Pat Hare, gtr; 
	Willie Dixon, bss; George Hunter or Francis Clay, dms. 
8981	Key To The Highway	Ckr904
	Rock Bottom inst  alt 	LRDB LP 2017
9141	Walkin' On inst	LRDB LP 2012
8982 5	Rock Bottom inst	Ckr 904

Oct 1958
	Vcl/hca; Otis Spann, pno; Luther Tucker, gtr; 
	Fred Robinson, bss; George Hunter, dms.                                                       
9196		Someday Baby / You Gonna Be Sorry tk6 	LRDB LP 2012
9197	Instrumental
9358	One Of These Mornings

Feb 25 1959	
	Vcl/hca;  Luther Tucker, Fred Robinson, gtr; 
	Willie Dixon, bss; George Hunter, dms.		
9243	Baby	LRDB LP 2007
9244	My Baby's Sweeter	Ckr 919
	My Baby's Sweeter alt
9245	Crazy Mixed Up World
	Crazy Mixed Up World alt
9246	Worried Life	LRDB LP 2007

July 21 1959
	Vcl/hca;  Otis Spann, pno; Robert Lockwood, Luther Tucker, gtr; 
	Willie Dixon, bss; Billy Stepney, dms.                                             
	Everything's Gonna Be Alright 	Ch LP 6036/7  J 
	Everything's Gonna Be Alright	LRDB LP 2007
9619	Everything's Going To Be Alright	Ckr 930
	Mean Old Frisco  tk 1&2 	Ch LP 603617  J 
9620	Mean Old Frisco	Ckr 11 17
9621	Back Track inst	Ckr930

Aug 12 1959
	Vcl/hca; Luther Tucker & ? gtr; George Hunter, dms.
9654	One Of These Mornings	LRDB LP 2012	
	Blue And Lonesome tk1	LRDB LP 2007
9655	Blue And Lonesome	Ckr 11 17

Nov 1959
	Vcl/hca;  Otis Spann, pno; Luther Tucker, gtr; 
	Fred Robinson, bss; George Hunter, dms.		
9810	Me And Piney Brown	Ckr938
9811	Break It Up

Dec 1959
	Vcl/hca;  Robert Lockwood, Luther Tucker, gtr; 
	Willie Dixon, bss; George Hunter, dms. 
9889	Goin' Down Slow	LRDB LP 2007
9890 6	My Desire
9891	You're Sweet	unissued

Dec 1960
	Vcl/hca; Otis Spann, pno; Fred Robinson, Jimmie Lee Robinson, gtr;
	Willie Dixon, bss; Fred Below, dms.                                     
10593	I Don't Play	Ckr968
10594	As Long As I Have You	
10595	You Don't Know	LRDB LP 2012
10596	Just Your Fool	Ckr 1013

Feb 5 1963
	Vcl/hca; Jarrett Gibson, bsx; Lafayette Leake, pno; Billy Emerson, org;
	Buddy Guy, gtr; Jack Meyers, bss; Al Duncan, dms.           
12168	Up The Line	Ckr 1043
12169	I'm A Business Man	Ckr 1081
12170	Dead Presidents
12171	Southern Feeling inst		Ckr 1043

Feb 1966
	Vcl/hca; J.T.Brown, tsx; Lee Jackson, gtr; Junior Pettis, bss;
	George Cook, dms.
14573	Back In The Alley inst		LRDB LP 2017
14574	I Feel So Bad tk1		LRDB LP 2017
14575	I Feel So Bad tk2		LRDB LP 2017
14576	Chicken Shack inst		LRDB LP 2017
1 Little Walter & His Night Cats  Checker 758,767,770
  Little Walter & His Night Caps  Checker764
2 extended version of 1050 on Ch CD 9293.
3 extended version of 4344 on LP 416.
4   Lockwood plays both guitar parts on 7777.
5 8982 extended on LP.
6 7888 (I Hate To See You Go) retitled.

Special thanks to Jonathan Lloyd for the LITTLE WALTER & HIS JUKES discography and Richard Cotenas ( for permission to use the Little Walter information that is included in his excellent Otis Spann discography that can be found at: Mark Naftalin's 411-WINNER site.

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