Little Walter

Little Walter Biography

Blues harmonica player and composer.

His innovation on the harmonica has had impact on succeeding generations.

Born & raised in Lousiana, Little Walter had quit school by the age of 12, & was supporting himself with odd jobs & busking around southern cities in Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, & Missouri. Arriving in Chicago in 1945, he occasionally found work as a guitarist but garnered more attention for his already highly developed harmonica work. Jacobs, growing frustrated with having his harmonica drowned out by electric guitarists, competed with their volume by adopting the previously little-used method of amplification. However, he differed from his contemporaries by purposely pushing his amplifiers beyond their intended technical limitations, using the amplification to explore and develop radical new timbres and sonic effects previously unheard from a harmonica, or any other instrument. It has been said Little Walter was the first musician of any kind to purposely use electronic distortion.

His first released recordings were in 1947. He then joined Muddy Waters band playing mostly unamplified harmonica from 1948 to 1952, though Chess hired Walter to play on most of Muddy's records throughout the 50's.

In 1952 his instrumental hit "Juke" spent 8 weeks atop the Billboard R&B chart, the only harmonica instrumental #1 to date.

Little Walter scored fourteen top-ten hits on the Billboard R&B charts between 1952 and 1958, including a second #1, "My Babe" in 1955, a level of commercial success never achieved by his former boss Waters.

In the late 1950s, Jacob's fame and fortunes began to decline. He suffered from alcoholism and had a notoriously short temper. He died in his sleep at the apartment of a girlfriend at 209 E. 54th St. in Chicago early in the morning following a fight outside a club he was playing at in South Chicago.

Described as "king of all post-war blues harpists", he is widely credited by blues historians as the artist primarily responsible for establishing the standard vocabulary for modern blues & blues rock harmonica players.

Inducted into Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 2008 (Sidemen).

Born 1 May 1930 in Marksville, Louisiana.

Died 15 February 1968 in Chicago, Illinois.

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