ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Walter HortonAin't It A Shame King of the Harmonica Players
Walter HortonI Hate To The Sun Go Down King of the Harmonica Players
Walter HortonThat's Wrong Little MamaKing of the Harmonica Players
Tampa RedEvalena Blues Harmonica Giant: Classic Sides 1951-1956
Johnny ShinesEvening Shuffle (Take 1)Blues Harmonica Giant: Classic Sides 1951-1956
Willie NixTruckin' Little WomanMemphis & The South 1949-1954
Walter HortonBaby I Need Your Love Solo Harp: Private Recordings
J.B. Lenoir Slow Down Woman American Folk Blues Festival 1962-1965
Walter HortonThat Ain't ItAnn Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival Vol. 4
Walter HortonI Need My Baby BluesHave A Good Time…Chicago Blues
Johnny Young & Walter HortonStockyard BluesJohnny Young And His Chicago Blues Band
Walter Horton & Floyd JonesOverseas BluesDo Nothing Till You Hear From Us
Walter Horton & Floyd JonesTalk About Your Daddy Do Nothing Till You Hear From Us
Walter HortonGo Long WomanMouth Harp Maestro
Walter HortonLittle Walter's Boogie Sun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958
Walter HortonWe All Got To Go (Take 3)Blues Harmonica Giant: Classic Sides 1951-1956
Walter HortonHard Hearted WomanBlues Harmonica Giant: Classic Sides 1951-1956
Walter HortonWalking by MyselfBlues Harmonica Giant: Classic Sides 1951-1956
Victoria Spivey &Walter Horton Inter-Mission TasteSpivey's Blues Parade
Otis SpannCan't Do Me No Good The Blue Horizon Story 1965-1970
Sunnyland Slim & Walter HortonBlow Walter BlowSad And Lonesome
Walter Horton & Jimmy DeBerryWorried, Wonderin' And GladBack
Walter Horton & Jimmy DeBerryEverybody's Fishin' Back
Walter Horton Let's Have A Good TimeI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Walter Horton You Don't Mistreat MeI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Chicago Blues All StarsLittle Boy BlueLoaded With The Blues
Walter HortonIf It Ain't Me Johnny Shines with Big Walter Horton

Show Notes:

Big Walter Horton: King of the Harmonica PlayersSeveral years back I devoted a show to Walter Horton and Little Walter. I was listening to some of Horton's recordings again recently and thought I would do a sequel, spotlighting material not covered in the first show. Today's show spotlights a number of lesser known, rarer sides Horton recorded under his own name as well as great sides that find him in a supporting role. Horton ranks as one of the greatest blues harmonica artists yet never got quite the same acclaim as contemporaries like Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson II due mostly to the fact that, as a rather shy, quiet individual, he never had much taste for leading his own bands or recording sessions. Horton was much more comfortable in a supporting role and as writer Neal Slavin wrote “was one of the few musicians capable of elevating the slightest material into something approaching a masterpiece.”

Horton was born in Horn Lake, Mississippi, in 1918. Horton got his first harmonica from his father when he five, and won a local talent contest with it. Shortly thereafter his mother moved to Memphis, then a hotbed of blues, and according to blues researcher Samuel Charters, Horton was playing with the Memphis Jug Band by the time he was nine or ten. He also may have recorded with them in 1927 as he himself claimed but many researchers doubt this assertion. During the thirties he played with Robert Johnson, Honeyboy Edwards, and others, and later gave pointers to both Little Walter and Rice Miller. Horton's first verifiable sides were done in 1939 backing guitarist Charlie "Little Buddy" Doyle on sessions for Columbia. Around the same time (according to Horton himself), he began to experiment with amplifying his harmonica, which if accurate may have made him the first to do so.

lWalter Horton & Jimmy DeBerry
Walter Horton & Jimmy DeBerry

In the late forties he went to Chicago, but later returned to Memphis. From 1951 to 1953, Horton recorded as vocalist and harmonica virtuoso backed by small combos, which variously included Joe Willie Wilkins, Pat Hare, Jack Kelly, Joe Hill Louis, Willie Nix, Albert Williams, and others. Singles by ‘‘Mumbles’’ were released on Modern, RPM, and Chess. In Memphis in 1953, Horton and guitarist Jimmy DeBerry recorded the instrumental masterpiece ‘‘Easy’’ (Sun), based on Ivory Joe Hunter’s ‘‘Since I Lost My Baby.’’ Following the success of "Easy," Horton went back to Chicago to play with Eddie Taylor and cut a memorable session backing Tampa Red. But when Junior Wells got drafted, Horton took his place in Muddy Waters' band. It didn't last long, though-Horton showed up drunk at a rehearsal and Muddy fired him. He reunited with Muddy on the 1977 record I'm Ready.

Horton cut his best work as a sideman. Always described as shy and nervous, he preferred this role to that of a bandleader. His playing graces numerous records behind Johnny Shines, Jimmy Rogers, Muddy Waters, Johnny Young, Sunnyland Slim, Otis Rush, Koko Taylor, and others. He also taught a number of younger players, including Charlie Musselwhite and Carey Bell. In 1964, Horton recorded his first full-length album, The Soul of Blues Harmonica, for Chess subsidiary Argo. Two years later, Horton contributed several cuts to Vanguard's classic compilation Chicago/The Blues/Today! Vol. 3.

Horton became a regular on Willie Dixon's Blues All Stars package tours during the 70's, which made their way through America and Europe over the '60s and '70s. He also played the AmericaWalter Horton: The Deep Blues Harmonica Ofn-The-Deep-Blues-Ha-539120n Folk Blues Festival in 1965. In 1973 he cut an album with Carey Bell for Alligator. After that he became a mainstay on the festival circuit, and often played at the open-air market on Chicago's legendary Maxwell Street, along with many other bluesman. In 1977, he joined Johnny Winter and Muddy Waters on Winter's album I'm Ready, and during the same period recorded some material for Blind Pig, which later found release as the albums Fine Cuts and Can't Keep Lovin' You. Horton appeared in the Maxwell Street scene in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers, accompanying John Lee Hooker. He died of heart failure on December 8, 1981.

We spotlight a number of less well known recordings by Horton. Among those are several from the 1970's: King of the Harmonica Players issued on the Delta label and collects sides recorded in 1966 with Johnny Young and in 1970 with Floyd Jones, Do Nothing Till You Hear From Us with Floyd Jones issued on the Magnolia label  in 1975, The Deep Blues Harmonica of Walter Horton issued on JSP and pair of albums issued on Crosscut with Jimmy DeBerry. The Delta album has recently been issued on CD with some additional vintage tracks while the Magnolia album has not been issued on CD. A few years back the JSP label  issued the 3-CD set Big Walter Horton – Blues Harmonica Giant: Classic Sides 1951-1956. The third disc contains tracks issued on the album The Deep Blues Harmonica of Walter Horton likely recorded Jan. 1973 in Cambridge, MA.

Horton recorded some fine material in 1964 that we feature today. Blues Southside Chicago is a collection of Chicago blues recorded by Willie Dixon in 1964 and originally issued on UK Decca and reissued by Flyright in 1976. Additional sides from this session appeared on Have A Good Time – Chicago Blues issued in 1970 on the Sunnyland label which is also out of print. Both LP's feature sides by Horton as leader and in a session role and both albums have not been issued on CD.

Walter Horton & Folyd Jones: Do Nothing Til You Hear From UsJimmy DeBerry and Walter Horton cut two very hard-to-find albums circa 1972-1973 in Memphis called Easy and Back for the Crosscut label. DeBerry cut some material in the pre-war era and some terrific sides for Sun in the 1950's, both solo and with Walter Horton including playing on Horton's classic "Easy." These albums are bit of a mixed bag but there are several fine moments.

In 1964 Olle Helander and Lars Westman of Swedish Radio were on a trip to the US to document blues and jazz in Chicago, Memphis, New Orleans and San Francisco. They reached Chicago May 23rd and recorded Johnny Young accompanied by Slim Willis, Otis Spann and Robert Whitehead. In the afternoon they recorded Walter Horton with Robert Nighthawk. These recordings were aired in the context of radio documentaries with interviews of the artists. Unfortunately Nighthawk and Horton were not interviewed. Most of this material has  been released in excellent sound on the double disc sets I Blueskvarter: Chicago 1964, Vol. 1 and I Blueskvarter: Chicago 1964, Vol. 3 which is the first authorized release of these recordings

We also spotlight several fine live performances including a great performance with Horton backing J.B. Lenoir at the 1965 American Folk Blues Festival, live at the 1973 Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival and a solo performance recorded in Dortmund, West Germany in 1965.

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