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Little Walter

From Academic Kids

Little Walter (born Marion Walter Jacobs) (May 1 1930 - February 15 1968) was a blues singer and harmonica player.

Jacobs is generally included among blues music greats: Ry Cooder 's opinion is that Jacobs was the single greatest blues musician ever. His revolutionary harmonica technique has earned comparisons to Charlie Parker and Jimi Hendrix in its impact: There were great musicians before and after, but Jacobs' startling virtuosity and innovations reached heights of expression never previously imagined, and fundamentally altered many listeners' expectations of what was possible in blues music.

After quitting school by the age of 12, Jacobs left Louisiana and travelled wherever he chose, working odd jobs and honing his musical skills with Sonny Boy Williamson and Big Bill Broonzy, among others.

Eventually arriving in Chicago, he fell into the thriving Blues scene. Jacobs grew tired of being drowned out by electric guitarists, and developed a simple, but previously unused method: He held a small microphone in his hand while he played harmonca, and plugged the microphone into a guitar amplifier. He could thus compete with any guitarist's volume, and furthermore, he utilized amplification to explore radical new timbres. Little Walter is generally considered the first 'urban' blues musician. His sound was very modern, with a strong jazz feeling to it and he played mainly composition or modern songs.

By 1950 he was recording for Chess Records. He joined Muddy Waters' band, and recorded a number of classic songs with him. Jacobs first recorded as a bandleader in 1952 for Checker Records; he scored an impressive fourteen top-ten hits on the R&B charts between 1952 and 1958. A lot of these numbers where originals which he, Willie Dixon or his guitarist Louis Meyers wrote.

Jacobs suffered from alcoholism, and had a notoriously short fuse. He died of injuries sustained in a fight.

His legacy has been enormous: He established the standard vocabulary for blues and blues rock harmonica players for more than 50 years, from Paul Butterfield to John Popper of Blues Traveler.

His 1952 instrumental Juke was selected as one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.


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