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vendredi 25 février 2022

BIG WALTER HORTON/ Complete Recordings 1951-66

BIG WALTER HORTON/ Complete Recordings 1951-66



I guess it's certainly not necessary to present Big Walter Horton, also named Shakey Horton, to the followers of my blog. His reputation is very very high among blues buffs all around the world and particularly among harmonica players and fans for whom he is considered as one of the most accomplished and influential blues harp players of all times.

Heavy or piercing, hazy or precise, the harmonica playing of this "Big" Walter – the main competitor of the other Walter, the so called "Little" – is almost always full of feeling and imagination. Many of his solos are masterpieces and now classics of the genre and have been heavily emulated up to those days.

Although most of his biographies mention his birth date as 6th April 1918 at Horn Lake, Arkansas and Blues/ A regional experience gives a birth certificate (for a named Harton) from September 1921, Big Walter has always appeared to all who saw him, including yours truly, as a much older man than that.

Walter was certainly neither a leader nor a very reliable informant and during most of his career he was equally not a very reliable band player, the stories about how he didn't show at a gig or quit during the middle of a performance abound. And this certainly explains why he never reached any stardom, not even being able to make a living out of his music.

But of course when he was playing or recording, Big Walter was certainly a huge master of his instrument.

I had the opportunity to see him quite often while he was touring Europe either with the AFBF's 1965, 1968 and 1970 or when he was a band member of the Willie Dixon's Chicago Blues all stars. I also had the privilege to meet him in Chicago in 1979 when he was backing Floyd Jones on a tiny West Side club. And we drove him to his shabby home where he was living in ugly poverty while posters on the walls were testifying of his great reputation all around the world!

Anyway, this compilation tries to gather all the recordings he made under his name during the years 1951-66, from his early days in Memphis to his first European tour. Of course all of those have been issued and sometimes still available but scattered on many records with a majority of them out of stock. To have them together seemed to me a very interesting way to appreciate his terrific talents as a musician.

After 1966, Walter made a handful of albums for Alligator (maybe his very best) and with several young (at that time) bands like Hot Cottage or John Nicholas' and even appearing in the best selling album Fleetwood Mac/ Blues jam at Chess. All of those are very worthwhile.

Walter died in Chicago on 8th December 1981. To my eyes, he was certainly older than 60 years old.

                                                 Gérard HERZHAFT

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