Jukin' Into the History Books

May 3, 2016

Little Walter was a true pioneer of the blues. He helped bring the harmonica into a spotlight of its own. He became one of the great Chicago bluesmen, helping define and solidify the sound that would become Chicago Blues.

Born Marion Walter Jacobs in Marksville, Louisiana in 1930, Little Walter grew up playing in local clubs with his cousin, Boogie Jake, and later moved to Chicago to seek his fame. In Chicago he met Muddy Waters and became a member of his band in 1948. Eventually, Walter set out on his own, recording for the Checker Label, a subsidiary of Chess. 

His hit single "Juke" was the first instrumental blues song to reach number one on the charts. He was also the first person to use overdriven amps to create distortion with a harmonica, opening new doors for the instrument and the genre. 

Little Walter lived his life fast and hard, and was notoriously cantankerous. He died in 1968, at the age of 37, at a girlfriend's house after being injured in a fight at one of his shows.

Byway Blues is produced with the generous support of Washington Wine and Spirits, the Entergy Charitable Foundation, and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.