Thursday, October 18, 2007
No. 198: The Best Of Little Walter
Band: Little Walter
Album: The Best Of Little Walter
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: There's only one real harmonica style for blues and rock and roll players and it's Little Walter. He's incredibly underrated as a musician and while he's not the name that B.B. King or Howlin' Wolf are, his shadow looms hugely over music.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: No one knows who he is and most of the songs sound pretty alike.
Best song: "My Babe" is classic and "Juke" is the first harmonica instrumental ever to become a hit on the R&B charts.
Worst song: None of the songs are bad, per se. A lot of them sound alike.
Is it awesome?: Sure. Why not?
Because I'm one of the millions of people who knows nothing about Little Walter, let's roll over to our friends at Allmusic.com and Wikipedia to explain him...
According to both, he was a hugely talented harmonica player who grew up in abject poverty in the Mississippi Delta (New Orleans, to be exact) and moved up to St. Louis and eventually Chicago in order to be part of the thriving blues scene.
He made his first recording in 1947 after learning music at the knee of Sonnny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters and Big Bill Broonzy -- all blues legends in their own light. In 1950, he'd become the in-house Chess harmonica player.
Using the tail end of sessions to record his own music gave us "Juke" in 1952, recorded at the end of a Muddy Waters session. The chart-topping instrumental was an instant hit and it propelled Little Walter to stardom. He had 14 top ten R&B hits between '52 and '58, though he eventually succumbed to his own demons -- he was a tremendous alcoholic and was not able to stay sober for more than a few months -- and was killed in a street fight in 1968.