"Blues with a feeling, that's what I have today..."
Blues With A Feeling
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Little Walter, born Walter Marion Jacobs on May 1, 1930 in Marksville, Louisiana, taught himself harmonica age at the age of 8. He ran away from home, formed a group and worked the streets and small clubs of New Orleans in 1942. He worked in the Helena, Arkansas area from 1943-1946, performing on 'King Biscuit Time' and with Houston Stackhouse. Jacobs moved to Chicago around 1946 and played on Maxwell Street and in clubs with Tampa Red, Bill Broonzy, and Memphis Slim. His first recordings in 1947 were for Ora Nelle, a small Maxwell Street record label. After Muddy Waters started recording for Chess in 1947 with Ernest "Big" Crawford on bass. In 1948 he added Walter on harmonica, Jimmy Rodgers on second guitar, and Leroy Foster on drums to his band, and this group of musicians defined the modern blues band through their experience playing in Chicago's clubs. Their first recordings appeared on Chess in 1950, all classics of postwar blues. Walter's innovative playing and distinctive sound from his amplified harmonica contributed heavily to making Muddy's recordings of the early 1950's the magnificent achievements they still are. Walter toured with the Muddy Water's band during the years 1948-1952.
In 1952 Walter left Muddy's band to showcase his own vocal skills. Walter formed a group called The Jukes with David and Louis Myers on guitars and Fred Below on drums. This trio, known as the Aces then, had been working previously with Junior Wells. Their first recordings were for the Checker subsidiary of Chess in 1952. Walter played the amplified harmonica (often alternating standard and chromatic harmonicas) by holding a small microphone in his cupped hands. He achieved a saxophone-like sound that expressed his highly imaginative improvisations remeniscent of the bop jazz saxophonists of the day. Pete Welding has said of Walter, "As a vocalist he manifested the same incisive, resilient swing, the same passionate conviction and intensity with which he animated his harmonica playing."
From 1952 to 1968 Walter recorded about 100 titles for Chess, of which about half were issued on record as of the early 1970's. Previously unreleased material is making its way to newly released CD's. Grab 'em. Walter also recorded frequently as a sideman for Chess/Checker in the years 1952-1968 in addition to extensive touring, including a tour of England in 1964 with the Rolling Stones.
Walter died on February 15, 1968 in Chicago at the age of 37 as a result of head injuries sustained in a street fight. He is buried in St. Mary's Cemetery, Evergreen, Il.
"...Walter helped to rewrite blues history, for many of the settings and patterns he and his band The Jukes introduced have since become part of the basic expressive vocabulary of the modern blues, so familiar through extensive use to now be taken for granted."
--Pete Welding, Chess album 2CH 60014
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