“Little Walter Jacobs was one of the best singers of the blues and a blues harp player par excellence” – Keith Richards
“Little Walter was a very, very powerful influence on me” – Eric Clapton
Blind Pig Records has announced a live recording date for a special tribute to Little Walter Jacobs featuring some of the finest harmonica players on the current blues scene – Charlie Musselwhite, Billy Boy Arnold, Mark Hummel, James Harman, and Sugar Ray Norcia. The show will take place on Thursday, December 6th at Anthology in San Diego, California.
The virtuosic Little Walter is without doubt one of the most influential blues harmonica players of all time. AllMusicGuide said, “The fiery harmonica wizard took the humble mouth organ in dazzling amplified directions that were unimaginable prior to his ascendancy. His daring instrumental innovations were so fresh, startling, and ahead of their time. His influence remains inescapable to this day — it’s unlikely that a blues harpist exists on the face of this earth who doesn’t worship Little Walter.” The idea for the Little Walter tribute recording grew out of a number of highly successful West Coast concerts in early 2012 that were part of an ongoing series of “Blues Harmonica Blowout” concerts organized by Hummel, who will serve as producer of the recording project, to be entitled Remembering Little Walter. Said Hummel, “Walter changed all the rules and raised the bar so high that nobody has yet surpassed him either in innovation or technical prowess. Walter’s original sides have become the holy grail all other harpers are still trying to aspire to.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Charlie Musselwhite and Billy Boy Arnold, who both knew and were friends with Little Walter. In fact, both used Walter’s backing musicians (Louis and Dave Myers, Fred Below, and Luther Tucker) in their own bands in the 60’s and early 70’s. Musselwhite said, “If you listen to Walter’s earliest recordings you can see that he came from a down-home country style much like John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson. And then, probably with the urban influence of Chicago horn players, started phrasing like a saxophone. This phrasing combined with his creativity and amplification really took harmonica playing to a whole new level that hadn’t been heard before. For me personally, besides Walter’s being an influence, he was even more of an inspiration; an inspiration and invitation to experiment, take chances, see where it’ll take you and to always follow your heart.” He went on to recall, “Walter was always real nice to me. He’d give me a ride home after the gig or sometimes he’d walk with me to the bus stop and wait until the bus came. He was always acting like he was looking out for me; like he was going to be there if somebody started some nonsense with me.” Billy Boy Arnold added, “When I heard Little Walter’s harmonica playing on the recordings with Muddy Waters and others, I knew that Little Walter was the new Harmonica King. I bought every record that Muddy Waters made with Little Walter’s harp playing on it. He was miles ahead of all the other harp players on the scene. No one could touch him. He was creative, innovative, and spontaneous. Little Walter is still the top and most influential harp player that ever played.”
CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE is one of the most recognized names in blues harmonica. Born in 1944, Musselwhite has traveled the long road from backwoods Mississippi to a teenaged upbringing in Memphis, where he first heard and learned the blues from its originators. On the South Side of Chicago, Charlie served his apprenticeship with Robert Nighthawk, JB Hutto, Johnny Young and Big Walter Horton and developed close friendships with blues icons Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Big Joe Williams, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. In the late 60’s and mid ’70s he and Paul Butterfield were very influential in introducing traditional blues to white audiences and the burgeoning scene of young rock and rollers. Renowned for his mastery of the traditional blues idiom, in recent years he’s introduced elements of jazz, gospel, Tex-Mex, Cuban and other world music into his recordings. In 2010 he was inducted into the Blues Foundation’s Blues Hall Of Fame. In addition, Charlie, who is one of the most beloved blues musicians in the world, has been nominated for six Grammy Awards and has won 24 Blues Music Awards.
BILLY BOY ARNOLD, a contemporary of James Cotton and Junior Wells, started with Ellis McDaniels (later to be known as Bo Diddley) in Chicago in 1955, where they created the “Bo Diddley” sound at Chess Records. Billy Boy learned harp at the feet of the legendary John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson when Billy was just 12 years old. Billy went on to record singles for VeeJay like “Wish You Would”, “Ain’t Got You” and “You Got Me Wrong.” In the mid-60’s young British groups The Yardbirds and The Animals discovered Billy Boy’s 45s and had hits with their own cover versions. In the early 90’s Arnold firmly reestablished himself as one of the foremost practitioners of classic Chicago blues with a pair of critically acclaimed releases on Alligator. His most recent CD, Billy Boy Arnold Sings Bill Broonzy, has been receiving extensive airplay.
MARK HUMMEL has been touring nationally since 1984 and has most recently written a memoir, “Big Road Blues: 12 Bars on I-80,” put out by Mountain Top Publishing. Mark started his band The Blues Survivors in 1977 with Mississippi Johnny Waters and has since toured/recorded with Lowell Fulson, Eddie Taylor, Charles Brown, Brownie McGhee, Jimmy Rogers and many other blues legends. In 1991 Mark started the Blues Harmonica Blowouts which have grown to be a much heralded blues event on the national scene. These multi harp packages have included John Mayall, Huey Lewis, Snooky Pryor, James Cotton, Kim Wilson, Rod Piazza, Carey Bell, Lazy Lester plus almost every other player of note on the blues harp. Mark has been nominated four times for the best harmonica player Blues Music Award. Hummel’s eighteenth and most recent CD is entitled Retroactive.
JAMES HARMAN was born and raised in Anniston, Alabama, where he quickly picked up on the black blues and soul music being played on juke boxes and the radio in the Deep South. In his teens, he started playing juke joints and dance clubs throughout the South and recorded a number of 45s. In 1968 Harman moved to Southern California, where he became friends with Canned Heat, The Blasters, and led bands with top-notch talent such as Hollywood Fats and Kid Ramos. He’s released numerous albums over the years, picking up 10 W.C.Handy/BMA nominations along the way. He has been inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and is the harmonica player of choice on recordings and live performances by ZZ Top, appearing with them on both David Letterman and Jools Holland’s TV shows.
SUGAR RAY NORCIA started the popular East Coast blues band The Bluetones 30 years ago with guitarist Ronnie Earl. They backed Big Walter Horton, Big Joe Turner, Jimmy Rogers, Otis Rush, JB Hutto and countless others in the early ’80s all over the Northeast. In 1991 Norcia hooked up with the legendary Roomful of Blues band and toured the world with the 11 piece band, appearing on their Grammy-nominated release Turn It On, Turn It Up. Norcia also recorded the Grammy nominated release Superharps during his Roomful tenure with harmonica heavyweights Charlie Musselwhite, James Cotton and Billy Branch. In 2001, he reunited the Bluetones with guitarist Kid Bangham and later Monster Mike Welsh. The latest Sugar Ray and the Bluetones album, Evening, received four BMA nominations in 2012 including “Album of the Year” and “Traditional Blues Album” of the year.
Following Little Walter’s approach of having the very best musicians in his bands, Hummel has handpicked a sterling lineup of musicians for the show and recording in San Diego – Little Charlie Baty, the world renowned guitar slinger and former bandleader of Little Charlie and the Nightcats; second guitar will be Harman bandmate, Nathan James; June Core (Musselwhite, Little Charlie and Nightcats, Robert Jr. Lockwood and Hummel) will be on drums and RW Grigsby (Mike Morgan, Gary Primich and Hummel) will play upright bass.