Home » T-Bone Walker’s Bridge to Jazz

T-Bone Walker’s Bridge to Jazz

TDMB posted yesterday on Leonard Bernstein. In a subsequent conversation on Facebook, I pointed out that he seemed to really like rock and roll. During various video talks posted on YouTube, Bernstein illustrated points using The Beatles, The Kinks and even The Association (“Along Came Mary”).

My cousin Ellen, an oboist who played in an orchestra conducted by Bernstein (who everyone apparently called “Lenny”) said he had love for all sorts of music beyond classical.

T-Bone Walker
T-Bone Walker

That idea – that barriers between musical genres sound be minimized and where possible eliminated – is powerful and reminded me of the clip above of T-Bone Walker playing “Goin’ to Chicago.” The notes say that it was a Jazz at the Philharmonic performance recorded in London in November of 1966.

The relavant point is that the list of background players is a who’s who of jazz of the day. According to the notes, T-Bone is accompanied by Dizzy Gillespie, Teddy Wilson, Louis Bellson, Clark Terry, Coleman Hawkins, Zoot Sims, Jimmy Moody, Benny Carter and Bob Cranshaw. The jazz influence is obvious in the second half of the song. It sounds great.

The other point on this clip is Walker’s obvious enjoyment. It’s fun to watch. Aaron Thibeaux (T-Bone) Walker, who was inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 as an early influencer, grew up in Dallas. He started playing publicly with his step father as a young boy and was a “lead boy” – likely an assistant – to Blind Lemon Jefferson, an even earlier influencer of American music.

Here is how Bill Dahl puts it at AllMusic: “Modern electric blues guitar can be traced directly back to this Texas-born pioneer, who began amplifying his sumptuous lead lines for public consumption circa 1940 and thus initiated a revolution so total that its tremors are still being felt today.” Alice Clark at Louder Sound called “Complete Imperial Recordings 1950-1954” and “T-Bone Blues” albums that are “essential” and “superior” respectively. Here are links the Imperial album at Amazon and iTunes. You also can click on the image.
Walker’s biggest hit was “Stormy Monday,” which went under a couple of similar names. He recorded it in 1942, but the song was not released until five years later.

The bio at the hall of fame webesite starts with a quote from B.B. King, who said that he was inspired by Walker and “Story Monday.” That’s quite a testimonial. The last paragraph of the piece sums it up nicely:

T-Bone Walker’s single-string solos influenced blues players like B.B. King and such rockers as Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan. As Pete Welding wrote: “T-Bone Walker is the fundamental source of the modern urban style of playing and singing the blues. The blues was different before he came onto the scene, and it hasn’t been the same since.”

Walker died in 1975. Above is “Don’t Throw Your Love on Me So Strong” and below is “Stormy Monday.”

AllMusic and Louder Sound were cited in the blue box. Photo: Heinrich Klaffs

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Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.


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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

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