Happy Birthday T-Bone Walker
” Modern electric blues guitar can be traced directly back to this Texas-born pioneer, who began amplifying his sumptuous lead lines for public consumption circa 1940 and thus initiated a revolution so total that its tremors are still being felt today.
Few major postwar blues guitarists come to mind that don’t owe T-Bone Walker an unpayable debt of gratitude. B.B. King has long cited him as a primary influence, marveling at Walker‘s penchant for holding the body of his guitar outward while he played it. Gatemouth Brown, Pee Wee Crayton,Goree Carter, Pete Mayes, and a wealth of other prominent Texas-bred axemen came stylistically right out of Walker during the late ’40s and early ’50s. Walker‘s nephew, guitarist R.S. Rankin, went so far as to bill himself as T-Bone Walker, Jr. for a 1962 single on Dot, “Midnight Bells Are Ringing” (with his uncle’s complete blessing, of course; the two had worked up a father-and-son-type act long before that).
Aaron Thibeault Walker was a product of the primordial Dallas blues scene. His stepfather, Marco Washington, stroked the bass fiddle with the Dallas String Band, and T-Bone followed his stepdad’s example by learning the rudiments of every stringed instrument he could lay his talented hands on. One notable visitor to the band’s jam sessions was the legendary Blind Lemon Jefferson. During the early ’20s, Walker led the sightless guitarist from bar to bar as the older man played for tips.
In 1929, Walker made his recording debut with a single 78 for Columbia, “Wichita Falls Blues”/”Trinity River Blues,” billed as Oak Cliff T-Bone. Pianist Douglas Fernell was his musical partner for the disc.Walker was exposed to some pretty outstanding guitar talent during his formative years; besides Jefferson, Charlie Christian — who would totally transform the role of the guitar in jazz with his electrified riffs much as Walker would with blues, was one of his playing partners circa 1933.
T-Bone Walker split the Southwest for Los Angeles during the mid-’30s, earning his keep with saxophonist Big Jim Wynn‘s band with his feet rather than his hands as a dancer. Popular bandleader Les Hite hired Walker as his vocalist in 1939. Walker sang “T-Bone Blues”with the Hite aggregation for Varsity Records in 1940, but didn’t play guitar on the outing. It was about then, though, that his fascination with electrifying his axe bore fruit; he played L.A. clubs with his daring new toy after assembling his own combo, engaging in acrobatic stage moves — splits, playing behind his back — to further enliven his show.” Continue reading