Today’s Music: Little Walter, “Juke” and “My Babe”

Marion Walter Jacobs, AKA ‘Little Walter’, along with Big Walter Horton and a couple of others, defined the ‘Chicago Saxophone’ sound on the harmonica way back in the 1950s. Instead of playing first position ‘country’ harp, Walter moved to second position harp (e.g.: if the band is in the key of E, the harp player plays an A harp), and combined over-stressing the harmonica’s reeds with pushing his electronic amplification to its limits to get a slightly distorted ‘honking’ effect, making it sound like a horn. The number of later blues and rock musicians, even guitar players, who were influenced in some way by this technique and Walter’s approach is too long to list, but it includes just about everyone but Pat Boone. Here’s his first R&B chart hit “Juke” from 1952, a precursor to the rock ‘n’ roll that exploded on the music scene a few years later, followed by the smooth-as-honey “My Babe” from 1955.

See a brief film about Walter when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008 here.

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