Little Walter: Smooth and Fresh

Little Walter was too bright a star not to shine on the Chess recordings.  He played harp in new and innovative ways that play as prominent a role in Muddy Water’s records as Muddy’s vocals and guitar.  By training himself to play singular notes on the harmonica, in bright and innovative patterns, his style matched that of bop jazz legends like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie “Bird” Parker.  His melodic style is at once smooth and fluid as well as angular and unpredictable.   Walter always kept his lines fresh and very melodic, unlike the bombastic playing style of his predecessors.

He was uniquely pioneering in two more aspects of harmonica as well.  He began using the chromatic harp to jump scales and methods (most of which is beyond my musical knowledge).  No one had ever played so aptly on a chromatic harp.  Walter is also known for introducing distortion into his playing style.  This idea was right on the cutting edge and he purposefully added distortion to his microphone to bolster the gritty blues sound.  For these innovations, as well as his music, Little Walter has a fixed place in music history.