Aaron Thibeaux “T-Bone” Walker (May 28, 1910 – March 16, 1975) was an American blues guitarist, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who was a pioneer and innovator of the jump blues and electric blues sound. In 2018 Rolling Stone magazine ranked him number 37 on its list of “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”.
Aaron Thibeaux Walker was born in Linden, Texas, of African-American and Cherokee descent. His parents, Movelia Jimerson and Rance Walker, were both musicians. His stepfather, Marco Washington, taught him to play the guitar, ukulele, banjo, violin, mandolin, and piano.
Walker began his career as a teenager in Dallas in the 1920s. His mother and stepfather (a member of the Dallas String Band) were musicians, and Blind Lemon Jefferson, a family friend, sometimes came over for dinner. Walker left school at the age of 10, and by 15 he was a professional performer on the blues circuit. Initially, he was Jefferson’s protégé and would guide him around town for his gigs. In 1929, Walker made his recording debut with Columbia Records, billed as Oak Cliff T-Bone, releasing the single “Wichita Falls Blues” backed with “Trinity River Blues”. Oak Cliff is the community in which he lived at the time, and T-Bone is a corruption of his middle name. The pianist Douglas Fernell played accompaniment on the record.
Walker married Vida Lee in 1935; the couple had three children.
By the age of 25, Walker was working in clubs on Central Avenue, in Los Angeles, sometimes as the featured singer and as guitarist with Les Hite’s orchestra. In 1940 he recorded with Hite for the Varsity label, but he was featured only as a singer.
In 1942, Charlie Glenn, the owner of the Rhumboogie Café, brought T-Bone Walker to Chicago for long-time stints in his club. In 1944 and 1945, Walker recorded for the Rhumboogie label, which was tied to the club, backed up by Marl Young’s orchestra.
T-Bone Walker performed at the second famed Cavalcade of Jazz concert held at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles produced by Leon Hefflin Sr. on October 12, 1946. Jack McVea, Slim Gaillard, The Honeydrippers, Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra, and Louis Armstrong were all on the same program. He also performed for the third Cavalcade of Jazz concert held in the same location on September 7, 1947 along with Woody Herman as Emcee, The Valdez Orchestra, The Blenders, The Honeydrippers, Slim Gaillard, Johnny Otis and his Orchestra, Toni Harper, The 3 Blazers and Sarah Vaughn.
Much of his output was recorded from 1946 to 1948 for Black & White Records, including his most famous song, “Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just as Bad)” (1947). Other notable songs he recorded during this period were “Bobby Sox Blues” (a number 3 R&B hit in 1947) and “West Side Baby” (number 8 on the R&B singles chart in 1948).
Throughout his career Walker worked with top-notch musicians, including the trumpeter Teddy Buckner, the pianist Lloyd Glenn, the bassist Billy Hadnott, and the tenor saxophonist Jack McVea.
He recorded from 1950 to 1954 for Imperial Records (backed by Dave Bartholomew). Walker’s only record in the next five years was T-Bone Blues, recorded during three widely separated sessions in 1955, 1956 and 1959 and released by Atlantic Records in 1959.
By the early 1960s, Walker’s career had slowed down, in spite of an energetic performance at the American Folk Blues Festival in 1962 with the pianist Memphis Slim and the prolific writer and musician Willie Dixon, among others. However, several critically acclaimed albums followed, such as I Want a Little Girl (recorded for Delmark Records in 1968). Walker recorded in his last years, from 1968 to 1975, for Robin Hemingway’s music publishing company, Jitney Jane Songs. He won a Grammy Award for Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording in 1971 for Good Feelin’, while signed with Polydor Records, produced by Hemingway, followed by another album produced by Hemingway, Fly Walker Airlines, released in 1973.
Walker’s career began to wind down after he suffered a stroke in 1974. He died of bronchial pneumonia following another stroke in March 1975, at the age of 64.
Walker was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
Chuck Berry named Walker and Louis Jordan as his main influences. B.B. King cited hearing Walker’s recording of “Stormy Monday” as his inspiration for getting an electric guitar. Walker was admired by Jimi Hendrix, who imitated Walker’s trick of playing the guitar with his teeth. Steve Miller stated that in 1952, when he was eight, Walker taught him how to play his guitar behind his back and also with his teeth. He was a family friend and a frequent visitor to Miller’s family home and Miller considers him a major influence on his career. “Stormy Monday” was a favorite live number of the Allman Brothers Band. The British rock band Jethro Tull covered Walker’s “Stormy Monday” in 1968 for John Peel’s “Top Gear”. Eva Cassidy performed “Stormy Monday” on her 1996 Live at Blues Alley recording.
The legendary T-Bone Walker is a fundamental source of the modern urban style of playing and singing the blues. His single-string solos influenced giants like B.B. King and such important blues-rockers as Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan. This quintessential release includes one his finest album for the Imperial label: I Get So Weary (1961) and Singing the Blues (1960). This album LPs consist of selections of previous Imperial singles, recorded between 1950 and 1954, with accompaniment by the outstanding Dave Bartholomew and his band (featuring impressive sidemen like saxophonist Lee Allen and bassist Frank Fields), as well as by such great musicians as Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Maxwell Davis and Billy Hadnott. This superb album have been remastered …
“When I heard T-Bone Walker play the electric guitar I had to have one.”(B.B. King)
“All the things people see me do on the stage I got from T-Bone Walker.” (Chuck Berry)
“When T-Bone Walker came, I was into that. That was the sound I was looking for.” (Albert King)
What more can be said … ?
Lee Allen (saxophone)
Dave Bartholomew (trumpet)
Cornelius Coleman (drums)
Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis (saxophone)
Maxwell Davis (saxophone)
Wendell Duconge (saxophone)
T.J. Fowler (piano)
Herb Hardesty (bass)
Walter Nelson (guitar)
T-Bone Walker (guitar, vocals)
some more musicians
01. Here In The Dark (Anders) 2.59
02. I Miss You Baby (Simon) 2.52
03. Life Is Too Short (Hale) 2.43
04. I Get So Weary (Williams) 2.38
05. You Just Wanted To Use Me (McGlothin) 2.23
06. When The Sun Goes Down (Walker) 2.28
07. Pony Trail (Bartholomew) 2.27
08. Through With Women (White) 3.06
09. Street Walking Woman (White) 3.03
10. Party Girl (White) 2.089
11. High Society (White) 2.53
12. Lollie Lou (Hale) 2.54
13. Got No Use For You (Walker) 2.36
14. Wanderin´ Heart (unknown) 2.28
“T-Bone” Walker (May 28, 1910 – March 16, 1975)