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
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.
Can't Hold Out Much Longer (alt.)*
Blue Midnight (alt.)**
Fast Boogie (alt.)*
Tonight With A Fool
Blues With A Feeling (alt.)*
My Kind Of Baby**
Come Back Baby**
I Love You So (Oh Baby)**
Big Leg Mama**
Mercy Babe aka My Babe**
Crazy For My Baby
Can't Stop Lovin' You**
Ah'w Baby (alt.)
Rock Bottom (alt.)**
You're Gonna Be Sorry Someday Baby**
My Baby Is Sweeter (alt.)*
Crazy Mixed Up World (alt.)*
Worried Life Blues**
Everythings Gonna Be Alright (alt.)**
Mean Ole Frisco (alt.)*
One Of These Mornings**
Blue And Lonesome (alt.)**
Me And Piney Brown
Break It Up
Going Down slow**
You Don't Know**
I'm A Businessman
Little Walter (UpFront)
Louis Myers; Robert Lockwood; Spann; Dixon; Below
Spann, Lockwood, Tucker, Dixon, George Hunter
Freddie Robinson; Luther Tucker; Spann; Dixon; George Hunter.
9620 Mean Old Frisco
9621 Back Track
9621 Back Track (alt take)
Luther Tucker; Jimmy Rogers; Spann; Fred Robinson; Dixon; George Hunter.
9811 Break It Up
Freddie Robinson; Luther Tucker; Spann; Dixon; Below
10594 As Long As I Have You
10595 You Don't Know
U10596 Just You Fool (Just Your Fool)
Little Walter (Session Work)
52-09-17 Chicago (Chess, Len or Phil)
Little Walter; Jimmy Rogers; Spann; Elgin Edmonds (Evans)
U7477 Standing Around Crying
7478 Gone To Main Street
U7479 Iodine In My Coffee
54-01-07 Chicago (Chess, Len or Phil)
Spann; Dixon; Rogers; Little Walter; Fred Below or Elgin Evans
I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man (alt)
U7590 She's So Pretty
U7591 Blues Leave Me Alone
U7592 Memphis Blues
15035 Hootchi Kootchi*
54-01-07 Chicago (Chess, Len or Phil)
Muddy Waters; Little Walter; Spann; Dixon; Fred Below or Elgin Evans
U7592 Chicago Bound
54-04-13 Chicago (Chess, Len or Phil)
Jimmy Rogers; Little Walter; Spann; Dixon; Fred Below or Elgin Edmonds
7631 Oh Yeah
54-04-13 or 15 Chicago (Chess, Len or Phil)
Little Walter; Spann; Willie Dixon; Fred Below
Coronets (vocal group); Little Walter; Spann; L. Myers; R. Lockwood; Dixon; Below
54-09-01 Chicago (Chess, Len or Phil)
Spann; Dixon; Little Walter; Rogers; Below
U7698 Smokestack Lightnin'
U7699 I Don't Know Why
U7700 Shake It Baby*
Little Walter; Jimmy Rogers; Spann; Willie Dixon; Fred Below.
U7747 Ooh Wee
Little Walter; Jimmy Rogers; Spann; Willie Dixon; Francis Clay
U7784 Young Fashioned Ways
U7785 I Want To Be Loved
U7797 My Eyes (Keep Me In Trouble)
55-03-09 Chicago (Chess, Len or Phil)
Little Walter; Dixon; Spann; Below?
U7970 You're The One (alt take)
Muddy Waters Little Walter; Jimmy Rogers; Pat Hare; Spann; Willie Dixon; Francey Clay.
Little Walter; Wayne Bennett; Dixon; Spann; Below.
U8395 I Can't Believe
U8396 Can't Keep From Worrying
58-Fall Chicago (Chess, Len or Phil)
Spann; Little Walter; Hare; Tucker; Andrew Stephens; Clay.
Little Walter; Pat Hare; Spann; Dixon; Clay or Willie Smith.
10031 Read Way Back
10032 I'm Your Doctor
10033 Deep Down In My Heart
67-01 Chicago, Chess Ter Mar StudiosBass, Ralph
Muddy Waters, Little Walter, and Bo Diddley, with Spann; Lawhorn or Buddy Guy; Sonny Wimberly; Frank Kirkland, Leary or Clay.
15499 Hoocher Coocher
15500 I'm A Man
15501 Blues With A Feeling
15504 Make Love To Me
15505 Long Distance Call
15507 I Just Want To Make Love To You
15525 You Don't Love Me
15526 You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover
15527 Sad Hours (Sad Horns)
Little Walter (Maybe)
55-10 Chicago (Chess, Len or Phil)
Walter Horton; Rogers; Spann; Dixon; Clay.
56- Chicago (Chess, Len or Phil)
Little Walter or Walter Horton; Spann; Jimmy Rogers or Pat Hare; Dixon; Clay.
U8148 Don't Go No Further
U8149 Diamonds At Your Feet
56-12-01 Chicago (Chess, Len or Phil)
James Cotton or Little Walter; Pat Hare or Jimmy Rogers; Willie Dixon or Andrew Stephenson; Francis Clay; Spann
8389 Rock Me
U8392 Look What You've Done
U8393 Got My Mojo Workin'
Little Walter or James Cotton; Pat Hare; Spann; Andrew Stephenson or Dixon; Francis Clay.
8733 She's Got It
8734 Born Lover
58-11 Chicago (Chess, Len or Phil)
Little Water or James Cotton; J.T. Brown (ts)-1; Spann; Pat Hare; Luther Tucker or Fred Robinson; Andrew Stephenson or Dixon (b); Clay
8980 Close To You-1
LITTLE WALTER & HIS JUKES
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 (email@example.com) 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.