Personalities | Little Walter | Fifties | Jazz & Blues

(Harmonica, vocals, 1930–68)

Marion Walter Jacobs was born in Marksville, Louisiana. He taught himself harmonica at the age of eight and was working the New Orleans streets by the time he was 12. He worked in Helena, Arkansas (where he met Rice Miller) and St. Louis before arriving in Chicago in 1946. He was encouraged by guitarists Tampa Red and Big Bill Broonzy and also met Jimmy Rogers. He made his recording debut in 1947 and joined forces with Muddy Waters the following year. He worked with Muddy until 1952 when his own Checker record, ‘Juke’, became an R&B number one.

Walter formed his own group with the Aces (David Meyers, Louis Meyers and Fred Below), and toured clubs and concert halls on R&B package tours. He continued to have hit records (including a second number-one R&B hit, ‘My Babe’) throughout the decade. He toured England in 1962 and 1964. Little Walter was an innovative superstar on harmonica, able to create unusually swinging, melodic single-note solos.

Styles & Forms | Fifties | Jazz & Blues
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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz & Blues, founding editor Howard Mandel


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