Archive for March 18th, 2009

18th March
written by Matt The Cat
Little Walter – The Complete Chess Masters (1950-1967)

Hip-O Select has done it again! Here is another box set that will surely satisfy the blues lover in all of us. This week, Hip-O Select released “Little Walter – The Complete Chess Masters (1950-1967). Click that link for a complete track listing. It’s available at the Hip-O Select website and also on

Even though Marion “Little Walter” Jacobs joined Muddy Waters live band in 1947, the Chess Brothers didn’t let him begin recording with Muddy until the October 23, 1950 session. This set begins with that very session and a fantastic blues harp instrumental complete with Muddy’s yeps called, “Evans Shuffle”. Muddy wrote it and it was released as a Muddy Waters single by Chess, but it was pure Little Walter.

Walter scored his own session on May 12, 1952. With Muddy Waters and Jimmy Rogers on guitar, Little Walter blew one of the most infamous and infectious harp solos of all time when they cut “Juke”. It was one of the biggest selling R&B; hits of 1952 and it became Chess Records best seller up until rock n’ roll blew up a few years later. This set includes the alternate version of “Juke”, which is a completely different take on that amazing riff. It’s definitely worth hearing both versions of this classic tune back to back.

It’s hard to imagine disciples like Mick Jagger and Magic Dick blowing a blues harmonica if it hadn’t been for Little Walter’s ground-breaking phrasing and sound. He took a beat-up microphone, amplified it through a cheap PA amplifier and created a distorted, but powerful sound. On his records, the harp is not an after-thought, it’s as up-front and important as a blues guitar. But Walter was more than just a great harmonica player, he could also sing with a great deal of feeling. Included in this 5 CD box set, are all of his 14 top 10 R&B; hits, including his 2 #1’s “Juke” and “My Babe”. I love his vocal style on “Blues With A Feeling”, “Hate To See You Go”(which also features Bo Diddley on guitar), “Too Late”, “Mellow Down Easy” and “Boom Boom Out Go The Lights.”

You will find all of the great Little Walter instrumentals that I used to play nightly on “The Night Prowl Show” as well as weekly on “Harlem”. Songs like “Roller Coaster”, “Fast Boogie” and “Off The Wall” bring back fond memories of giving Little Walter the radio exposure that he’d been missing for a generation.

Walter’s 1963 classic, “Dead Presidents” never made the charts, but it came back again in 1972 when it was covered by The J. Geils Band (featuring Magic Dick, a great blues harp player in his own right). Little Walter’s influence is still felt today whenever a young blues player picks up a harmonica and pairs it with a bullet mic and heavy reverb. I think Tony Glover, Scott Dirks and Ward Gaines put it best in this set’s liner notes when they say, “In blues harmonica, there have been many great players, but only two distinct eras: pre-Little Walter and post-Little Walter.” Yes, he was THAT good and THAT influential and FINALLY we have a box set that proves this beyond refute.