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Who Says Little Walter is the Best Blues Harmonica Player Ever? Everyone

Little Walter — Marion Walter Jacobs — is considered by those who know about such things to be the greatest blues harmonica player who ever lived. And, if you are the greatest blues harmonica player, it figures you are the greatest harmonica player overall.

Here is some background from Biography.com:

At the end of a Waters recording session in 1950, Walter recorded a new track of his own, called “Juke,” and the record became a hit, launching him to a level of fame he hadn’t previously known. Over the next several years, Walter sent 14 songs to the Top 10 on the R&B charts, including “Sad Hours,” “Mean Old World,” “You Better Watch Yourself” and “My Babe.” Despite the vocal display on Walter’s records, his singing is generally overlooked, as the shadow cast by his harmonica was huge. (Continue Reading…)

There seems to be complete unanimity about who the greatest blues harmonica player was. It was Little Walter. The point is made — no debate, thank you — at All Music:

Who’s the king of all post-war blues harpists, Chicago division or otherwise? Why, the virtuosic Little Walter, without a solitary doubt. The fiery harmonica wizard took the humble mouth organ in dazzling amplified directions that were unimaginable prior to his ascendancy. His daring instrumental innovations were so fresh, startling, and ahead of their time that they sometimes sported a jazz sensibility, soaring and swooping in front of snarling guitars and swinging rhythms perfectly suited to Walter‘s pioneering flights of fancy.

This short film is from Little Walter’s posthumous induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2008. He died as a result of injuries received in a street fight in 1968, He was only 38 years old.

Above is “Little Walter’s Jump” and below is “Wild About You Baby.” Hound Dog Taylor is the guitarist in both.

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Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

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.


What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.


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?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

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