The Little Walter Diaries – Introduction

LogoIn search of the inner Walter.

I am officially a liberated blues harmonica player. I woke up this morning and admitted to myself that I just don’t get Little Walter. I never have. I’ve been denying the fact for years, cowering in the deepest recesses of the blues closet, fearful of public ridicule. But now I’m out. O U T, out.

Listen to

Everyone knows mastery of Little Walter’s diatonic blues dialect is an essential step in any half-decent harmonica apprentice’s development. If you can’t recite Juke note for note, name all his hits and tongue block them, you’re nobody. Well, I can play the intro to Juke from draw two or blow three, with or without octaving blow six, I can tongue-block or purse it at will, but I’ve never stopped to learn the whole piece. The reason for which is two-fold. Firstly, there was a timing issue I just couldn’t unravel, whether or not it was a mistake on Walter’s part. Secondly, for love nor money, I simply couldn’t copy Little Walter’s phrasing, nor did I feel the urge to do so. Oh, and there was another reason. Big Walter.

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Four Things (Nearly) Every Harp Player Does

So, you still want to be a harp player, huh? Well son, every creature has its hobbies, and if you want to pass yourself off as the real thing, you better learn how to blend in. In Part 2 of his ethnoblography, Figuring Out The Harp Player, Elwood sketches out a few key points.

It is an established fact that over 98 percent of harmonica players are white, English-speaking men between the ages of 30 and 65. (The other two percent are women and Ismael Lo.) When they are not sleeping, eating or trying on ugly hats, they typically divide their time between four activities: (more…)