Little Water : Biography & Cause of Death


Marion Walter Jacobs , known as Little Walter, was an American blues musician, singer, and songwriter, whose revolutionary approach to the harmonica and impact on succeeding generations earned comparisons for him to such seminal artists as Django Reinhardt, Charlie Parker and Jimi Hendrix. His virtuosity and musical innovations fundamentally altered many listeners' expectations of what was possible on blues harmonica. He was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008 in the category Sideman, the only artist to be inducted specifically as a harmonica player ,  he began to record for the Ora Nellie label, but it was crossing paths with Muddy Waters in 1949, on a Jimmy Rogers session, that changed his life. He began working with Muddy and they recorded Little Walter’s “Louisiana Blues.” Then, in July 1951, during a recording session that produced “She Moves Me,” he used an amplified harmonica for the first time. The sound was revolutionary. Waters now had the roughest loudest blues band in Chicago , Jacobs had put his career as a bandleader on hold when he joined Waters's band, but he stepped out front again when he recorded as a bandleader for Chess's subsidiary label Checker Records on May 12, 1952. The first completed take of the first song attempted at his debut session became his first hit, spending eight weeks in the number-one position on the Billboard R&B chart. The song was "Juke", and it is still the only harmonica instrumental ever to be a number-one hit on the Billboard R&B chart. The original title of the track file was "Your Cat Will Play", but was renamed at Leonard Chess' suggestion. (Three other harmonica instrumentals by Little Walter also reached the Billboard R&B top 10: "Off the Wall" reached number eight, "Roller Coaster" reached number six, and "Sad Hours" reached number two while "Juke" was still on the charts.) "Juke" was the biggest hit to date for Chess and its affiliated labels and one of the biggest national R&B hits of 1952, securing Walter's position on the Chess artist roster for the next decade , Walter suffered from alcoholism and had a notoriously short temper, which in late 1950s led to violent altercations, minor scrapes with the law, and increasingly irresponsible behavior. This led to a decline in his fame and fortunes, beginning in the late 1950s. Nonetheless he toured Europe twice, in 1964 and 1967 (the long-circulated story that he toured the United Kingdom with the Rolling Stones in 1964 has been refuted by Keith Richards).The greatest harmonica man to ever blow the blues, Little Walter died in his sleep at the age of 37 , but Walter looked much older, his body and soul battered and bruised from hard loving and too many defeats.he was involved in a fight while taking a break from a performance at a nightclub on the South Side of Chicago. He sustained minor injuries in this altercation, but they aggravated the damage he had suffered in previous violent encounters, and he died in his sleep at the apartment of a girlfriend .

Awards and recognition

  • 1986 – Blues Hall of Fame: "Juke" (Classics of Blues Recordings – Singles or Album Tracks)
  • 1991 – Blues Hall of Fame: Best of Little Walter (Classics of Blues Recordings – Albums)
  • 1995 – Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: "Juke" (500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll)
  • 2008 – Grammy Awards: "Juke" (Grammy Hall of Fame Award)
  • 2008 – Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Little Walter inducted (Sideman category)
  • 2008 – Blues Hall of Fame: "My Babe" (Classics of Blues Recordings — Singles or Album Tracks)
  • 2009 – Grammy Awards: The Complete Chess Masters: 1950–1967 (Best Historical Album)
  • 2010 – Rolling StoneBest of Little Walter (number 198 on its list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time")
  • 2013 – Louisiana Music Hall of Fame


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