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T-Bone Walkers Playlist

1 Mean Old World
2 Shufflin The Blues
3 Stormy Monday
4 T-Bone Blues Special
5 Treat Me So Low Down
6 T-Bone Blues

"You've got to feel the blues to make them right. That kind of music really affects people, too. It's played from the heart and if the person listening, understands and is in the right mood, why, man, I've seen them bust out and cry like a baby".----T-Bone Walker

Aaron T-Bone Walker was a creator of modern blues and a pioneer in the development of the electric guitar sound that shaped virtually all of popular music in the post-World War II period. Equally important, Walker was the quintessential blues guitarist. He influenced virtually every major post-World War II guitarist, including B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix, Freddie King, Albert King, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

He was the first electric guitar player I heard on record, he made me so that I just had to go out and get an electric guitar...That was the best sound I ever heard."----B.B. King

No one has been able to match Walker's incredible command of tone and dynamics, his intricate jazz- flavored chording, or his ability to sustain excitement, both in what he played and how he played it. Walker was the master of the shuffle rhythm, and an incredibly effective soloist. Few guitarists, blues, rock, or otherwise, have played with more self-assurance and more presence, or have exhibited a more intimate understanding of how to elicit precisely phrased sounds from the instrument, than Walker.

From Walker, in fact, came the electric blues guitar style. He was the first blues artist to play the instrument, and the one who accomplished the most in exploring its wide range of possibilities. Walker was an expert in amplification. He also sounded as comfortable in the thick of a full orchestra as he did leading a small combo.

As if his exquisite guitar playing wasn't enough, Walker was also a first-class singer and entertainer. His full-bodied voice complemented his guitar playing. And like Delta bluesman Charlie Patton before him, Walker often played guitar behind his back and neck and between his legs; he also did splits and twists. Undoubtedly he influenced Chuck Berry and Hendrix in the way they incorporated showmanship into their performance to heighten intensity and audience excitement.

With the possible exceptions of Blind Lemon Jefferson, from whom Walker learned the basics of blues guitar, and Lightnin' Hopkins, Walker might well be the greatest blues artist to ever come out of Texas. Though he moved early on to the West Coast, the roots of his guitar style were in the Texas blues tradition, and two generations of Lone Star State guitarists have come of age paying tribute to him in some respect.

Walker was born in Linden, Texas, but his family moved to Dallas when he was two. Although he often sang with his stepfather, Marco Washington, Walker got a far better education in the blues from Jefferson, the creator of Texas blues. From about 1920 to 1923, Walker led Jefferson, a friend of the family, around the streets of Dallas, often holding Jefferson's tin can and collecting his tips. It was just after this time that Walker began to play guitar. Inspired by Jefferson and the music he heard around his house (both parents were musicians). Walker learned to play well enough to travel with the Dr. Breeding Medicine Show and various carnivals through Texas in the mid-1920s. Walker's reputation grew large enough so that in 1929 Columbia Records recorded him under the name Oak Cliff T-Bone. (Oak Cliff was the section of Dallas in which Walker lived.) He cut two songs: "Wichita Falls Blues" and "Trinity River Blues."

The following year Walker won a Dallas talent contest; the prize was a performance with Cab Calloway's big band. Walker played with other Texas bands after that, including the Lawson Brooks Band and the Count Biloski Band, before going to California in 1934. (Walker's departure from the Brooks band enabled his friend, Charlie Christian, to take his place. Christian became the first great electric guitar player in jazz.)

Walker spent most of the 1930s playing with small bands in and around Los Angeles. In 1935 or 1936 (accounts vary), Walker began experimenting with a prototype electric guitar and was one of the first guitarists anywhere to play the instrument in public. In 1935 jazz guitarist Eddie Durham played a non-electric resonator guitar on the Jimmy Lunceford rendition of "Hittin' the Bottle"; three years later he recorded with the Kansas City Five and Six using an electric guitar. Christian and another jazz guitarist, Floyd Smith, would also record with an electric guitar before Walker got his chance in 1939.

That was the year Walker joined Les Hite's Cotton Club Orchestra and recorded the seminal "T-Bone Blues," one of the great modern blues classics. Walker sang on the record and Frank Palsey played guitar. The success of "T-Bone Blues" prompted Walker to leave Hite in 1941 and start his own band. He worked L.A. clubs with his combo and began recording for Capitol Records in 1942. He also did extended stays at the Rhumboogie Club in Chicago and recorded for the club's record label. In 1946 Walker returned to L.A. where he recorded a number of gems for the Black & White label, including the rollicking instrumental "T-Bone Jumps Again" and his signature song, "Call It Stormy Monday" (But Tuesday Is Just as Bad) (117 k, 10 sec.), which is generally considered to be one of the greatest blues songs of all time. At a session shortly after the one that produced "Stormy Monday," Walker cut "T-Bone Shuffle," which, like "Stormy Monday," has become an essential piece in every blues guitarist' s repertoire.

Walker left Black & White Records in 1950 and signed with Imperial. In the five years he was with the label, Walker recorded slightly over fifty sides. None had the success of his late-'40s records with Black & White, though the guitarmanship heard on such songs as "I Walked Away" and "Cold Cold Feeling" revealed that Walker was certainly still capable of creating astonishing guitar passages.

Walker next moved to Atlantic Records, with whom he recorded until 1959. From this period came the flawless album T-Bone Blues, which ranks among the greatest modern blues albums. During this time Walker embarked on a touring strategy that had him playing in front of pickup bands rather than traveling with a band of his own. The quality of the bands was unpredictable, but his guitar work was just about always topnotch, despite growing health problems with ulcers and alcoholism.

Walker's sensitivity as a guitarist and his ability to entertain kept him a major touring attraction, though as a recording artist his best days were clearly behind him, both in creative output and sales. In 1962 Walker went to Europe with the American Folk Blues Festival package show, which enabled him to build a loyal following there. Walker would return to Europe a number of times in the next few years. At home, Walker played the Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1969, the Berkeley Blues Festival in 1970, and venues such as Carnegie Hall and the Fillmore East in New York. He also continued to record; in 1970 he won a Grammy for his album Good Feelin'. But Walker's health problems entered a critical stage; his stomach problems and inability to quit drinking took their toll in the early '70s. In 1974 he quit performing and recording after he suffered a stroke. In 1975 he died of bronchial pneumonia. Walker was inducted into the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.