Louisiana-born Chicago blues harp legend Little Walter and British playwright Joe Orton had one nasty thing in common. Each was beaten to death with a hammer -- Orton at the age of 34 in London on August 9, 1967 and Walter at the age of 37 in Chicago on February 14, 1968. Two very different lives were both abruptly terminated with grisly violence. Both were mavericks in their field, difficult to contain, posthumously idolized. Little Walter came up working with Bluebird recording artists Big Bill Broonzy and Tampa Red. He developed his mighty chops as a regular member of the Muddy Waters band during the late '40s and early '50s. Rev-Ola records presents 20 of Little Walter's toughest early recordings, beginning with the first to appear under his name, "Juke." Sound quality is good if sometimes scratchy. This is not a problem. In fact it makes perfect sense. Walter had a lot of scars on him and so did his records. Photo inserts reproduce several of the original red and silver 78 rpm Checker record labels as well as nine vintage snapshots of Walter at ease or in action. Although the informative, insightful liner notes are not accompanied by recording dates, there are personnel listings that include Muddy Waters, Jimmy Rogers, Willie Dixon and Robert Lockwood, Jr.. Every blues harmonica player heard during the second half of the 20th century came up on the basis of these recordings. Paul Butterfield copied this guy's every move. Little Walter was the first to cram the harp against a microphone and blow as hard as humanly possible; sending moans, growls, roars and screams through cheap amplifiers and out from ratty speakers all distorted and fine. His innovations are often cited as initial tremors in the earthquake of rock & roll, but that's only part of the picture. Little Walter was wired up to the soul of humanity with all of the switches thrown wide open. Mick Jagger, quoted on this album's insert, came up with the best epitaph: "We all wanted to live the life of Little Walter, but it was only because we did not really have to, because if you knew the actual details of that life, it was not very nice -- being poor and sick and not getting paid and at the end of it all, dying young."
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