If you start with the Blues you have to end with the Blues, Right? Here’s some Little Walter for your New Years Eve…

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I started my blog one year ago today. My first blog was about “The Queen of Soul”, Aretha Franklin. At first my site only got about 10 hits per month. A year later my site is getting 1,000+ hits per month. Still chump change in the world of blogosphere, but a great improvement too! One of my goals was to blog every week.  I almost made that goal.  Sometimes life just gets too busy and these blogs take a lot of time to produce. I am satisfied with my progress and I’d like to say a big thank you to all who read my blog and to all who continue to encourage my hobby.

Santa Claus was very good to me and I want to share the wealth. This LP was a gift from my good friend Jim (a.k.a. “Chip”). What a fantastic blues record this is too.

If you aren’t familiar with the name and music of Walter Marion Jacobs, “Little Walter” allow me to give you some background.  Little Walter is considered to be one of the greatest blues harmonica players ever.  He taught Mick Jagger how to play the harmonica.  Can you imagine “Midnight Rambler” without Mick’s great harmonica playing?  Keith Richards says that it’s a shame that Mick won’t “sing like he plays the harmonica”.    Walter was born May 1, 1930 in Marksville , Louisiana and died in Chicago, Illinois on February 15, 1968.  Little Walter brought  the harmonica into the modern age.  He was the first person to play the harmonica through a small hand help microphone.  This created a “booming new sound for the harp – fat, wide, ineffably haunting.”  He also brought a new virtuosity to the harp that had never been done before.  He is also famous because he was the harp player in Muddy Waters band until he went his own way in 1952.  In 1952 he released his first single called “Juke”.  It went straight to number 1 on the Billboard R&B chart where it stayed for 8 weeks.  Not even Muddy Waters did that in his prime.  Between 1952 and 1958 Little Walter had 14 top ten hits on the R&B charts.  But with the advent of Rock and Roll his fame faded in the 60’s.  This LP is the 1968 reissue of the original Chess Record of 1958. Many of these songs never made the charts but they will be instantly recognizable to many music lovers.  Where volume one emphasized his harmonica playing, Volume two features his vocal abilities.  Not to say there isn’t a lot of fantastic harmonica playing on this disc, because there is!  So here we go with side 1.

Side 1

Mellow Down Easy

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This song was recorded in 1954 and it was written by Willie Dixon. It features Robert Jr. Lockwood and David Meyers on Guitar, Willie Dixon on Bass, Fred Below on Drums and Little Walter on Vocal and Harmonica. It was originally released as Checker single 805. This song is now a standard of blues bands everywhere.  There is a very well know cover of this song by “The Paul Butterfield Blues Band”.

I Don’t Play

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This song was recorded in 1960. It was originally released as Checker single 968. It features Otis Spann on Piano, Freddie Robinson and Luther Tucker on Guitar, Wilie Dixon on Bass, Fred Below on Drums. This cut was not on the original Chess record. It was added to this 1968 reissue. Until this LP had been released, this song had never been issued on a U.S. record. It is not only a rarity, it is a great example of Little Walters amazing talent as a harmonica player.

Too Late

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This song was also written by Willie Dixon. It was recorded in 1953 and released as Checker single 780. It features Louis and David Meyers on Guitar, and Fred Below on drums.

Key To The Highway

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This song was written by McKinley Morganfield and recorded in 1958. It features Otis  Spann on piano, Muddy Waters and Luther Tucker on Guitar, Willie Dixon on bass and George Hunter on drums. Can yo believe you have Muddy, Willie and Walter all on one song? It would be like if you had a recording of Beethoven, Bach and Brahms playing together. All I can say is WOW!! This song has been covered by everyone that is anyone in blues and in rock.

Boogie

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This song was written and performed by Little Walter. It was recorded in 1952. It features Louis and David Meyers on guitar and Fred Below on Drums. This song was previously unreleased in the U.S. prior to this LP. This boogie has fierce driving style to it.

Side 2

Crazy Mixed Up World

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This song was written by Willie Dixon and recorded in 1959. It features Robert Jr. Lockwood and Luther Tucker on guitar, Willie Dixon on bass, and Fred Below on Drums. This has become a staple of blues music and has been widely covered by many musicians. It was originally released as Checker single 919.

Lights Out

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This song was written and performed by Little Walter. It features Louis and David Meyers on guitar, and Fred Below on drums. It was recorded in 1953 and originally released on Checker single number 786. This is a stunning instrumental that is every bit as good as anything else the man ever did.

Oh Baby

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This song was written by Willie Dixon and recorded in 1954. It features Willie Dixon on Bass, Louis Myers and Robert Jr. Lockwood on guitar, with Fred Below on drums. It was originally released as Checker single 793.

Boom Boom (Out Go The Lights)

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I just love this song. It has been covered by many many musicians but I really like this early version. This song was recorded in 1955 and released as Checker single 867. It features Robert Jr. Lockwood and Luther Tucker on guitar, Willie Dixon on Bass, and Fred Below on drums.

It Ain’t Right

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The LP ends with another Little Walter original. This song features the same line up that recorded Boom Boom. it was recorded in 1955 and released as Checker single 833.

I quote from Chris Morris of Billboard Magazine fame, “Often covered, much imitated, Little Walter has never been surpassed. He played, to quote the title of one of his biggest hits, blues with a feeling, and the feeling is the special province of the true greats.”

So what happened to Little Walter? Well, like a blues man is supposed to do, his life came to a tragic end. Walter was known to have a violent temper. He had been in many fights over the years. On Valentines day in 1968 Little Walter got into a fight during a break at a performance at a night club on the south side of Chicago. He didn’t appear to be seriously injured. He went back on stage and finished his performance. He went to his girlfriends apartment to spend the night. The next morning she woke up and found him dead. An autopsy later revealed that he had died of a blood clot coming loose and stopping his heart.  His music lives on…

I hope you have enjoyed this great Chicago blues music. Every song was recorded at Chess records in Chicago,Illinois. A little blues can warm up a cold winter night and makes for great listening on New Years Eve. Happy New Year and I look forward to writing many more blogs in 2012.

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About John

I taught myself how to play the piano and read music when I was 9 years old. I've been been consumed by music ever since. I majored in Piano performance in College and I still play, although not as well as when I had time to practice 4 -6 hours per day. This blog is about music. Music is the sound track of our lives. All it take is one song, one composition; and we are transported across time and space. I think it was Beethoven that said: "Music is the landscape of the soul."
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2 Responses to If you start with the Blues you have to end with the Blues, Right? Here’s some Little Walter for your New Years Eve…

  1. tex norman says:

    This one is great. I think being able to hear clips of the songs is the perfect companion to your insight and commentary.

    • John says:

      Thanks, Tex! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I love old blues music. I am enjoying your collage poetry too. Keep them coming.

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