b. 1896, South Carolina, USA, d. 4 March 1933, Greenville, South Carolina, USA. Blind from birth, Walker worked only as a musician, and was playing guitar in a string band with Rev. Gary Davis by 1911. Josh White said that ‘ Blind Blake was fast but Walker was like Art Tatum.’ This is no exaggeration, as Walker’s issued 1930 recordings, especially the two takes of ‘South Carolina Rag’, ably confirm. He was a strong singer, but it is his guitar that immediately astonishes: lightning-fast but impeccably clear (and admirably accompanied by Sam Brooks). At least some of Walker’s playing appears to be a transfer to the guitar of mandolin figurations. It has been speculated that on ‘Dupree Blues’ he flatpicks the bass strings and simultaneously fingerpicks the treble; certainly his abilities were held in awe by former associates even 40 years after his death from congenital syphilis.
Willie Walker Biography