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MUSIC IN AMERICA: Little Walter

 In Other Minds News

The great singer and harmonica blues legend Little Walter is discussed just 18 months after his death in Chicago at age 37 and presented by Arhoolie Records founder Chris Strachwitz. Louisiana-born Marion Walter Jacobs (1930-1968) came to be known as the Charlie Parker or Jimi Hendrix of his instrument, the harmonica. He revolutionized its use by cupping a small microphone in his hand over the instrument and amplifying it directly into the public address system, making it equal in volume to the electric guitar.

This collection of rare performances, beginning with from acetates and 78s, was recorded on September 24, 1969, at KPFA FM in Berkeley by engineer Dan McCloskey and first broadcast on October 18, 1969. It’s notable for an enthusiastic, young-sounding Strachwitz, unleashing his treasured collection of sides from the late Forties not yet reissued on LP. He recalled, “At first I didn’t care for his recordings because he didn’t have a distinctive voice like Howlin’ Wolf or Muddy Waters. He was at his best accompanying others.” But Strachwitz came to appreciate the striking use of the harmonica that later influenced “even white musicians like Paul Butterfield and Charlie Musselwhite.” And the energy and expressive nature of his interpretations shine through in this crackling 75-minute survey of his performances.

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