In addition to the nationally syndicated radio programs coming up, Joe will be doing a string of in-studios on the West Coast and in New York in the coming weeks. Details below.
Elwood’s Bluesmobile (2/25-26): (Formerly The House of Blues Radio Hour) (2/25 – 26), the feature with Joe Louis Walker will air on the nationally syndicated show. Joe joins Elwood Blues (AKA Dan Aykroyd), as they discuss Joe’s storied career and play songs from Hellfire. Elwood’s Bluesmobile can be heard on over 200 radio stations in North America. For a list of radio stations and air times in your area…
"Elwood's BluesMobile" is America's premiere syndicated Blues radio series. Hosted by Dan Aykroyd (aka Elwood Blues), the program continues the Mission started with the Blues Brothers to celebrate great American music. The program was originally called "The House of Blues Radio Hour" and has been heard continuously across the continent for over 19 years. The program has won the "Keeping the Blues Alive" award, the BMA's "Ages Award" and is a two-time winner of the prestigious "Grand Award" from the International Radio Festival. For more information, visit:
Blues Deluxe: Featuring the third track, “Movin’ On” (2/19 – 25), from Hellfire in as many weeks! They already featured “I’m On To You,” (1/29 – 2/4) and “Hellfire” (2/5 – 11). Listen online at any time at
WXPN Free At Noon Concert: A fantastic performance on World Café last Friday (2/17). Joe absolutely shredded on guitar, played 8 songs and told some great stories behind the songs. If you missed the live webcast, you can listen here:
Not only did Joe Louis Walker get to experience Muddy Waters’ music on tour—he got to experience his food. While touring with the legendary bluesman in the ’70s, Walker said, Waters was disappointed at the food offerings presented by a Toronto club.
“The first day we got there, there really wasn’t any soul food in Toronto,” he said. “The second day, I came back to the restaurant, and Muddy was in the kitchen cooking.” For the next two weeks, Walker ate food prepared by the Father of Chicago Blues.
“It was good,” Walker said with a laugh.
Walker, who performs in San Luis Obispo on Saturday, could spend hours sharing celebrity stories, having recorded or performed with stars such as B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal, Huey Lewis, Branford Marsalis and Ike Turner. Through his friendship with guitar great Mike Bloomfield of the Butterfield Blues Band, he also rubbed elbows with musicians including Jimi Hendrix, Steve Miller, members of the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane.
“Through Michael, I met everybody,” Walker said. “Michael was the first real guitar hero. Eric Clapton was heard but not known or seen. Michael was seen, known and heard. And not just the blues. He’s the guitarist on ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ by Bob Dylan. When Bob went electric, Michael was in the band he went electric with—way before The Band with Robbie Robertson.”
The house Walker shared with Bloomfield in Mill Valley was a regular stopping point for musicians such as Country Joe McDonald, former Rolling Stone Mick Taylor and bluesman John Mayall, who wanted to jam.
“When everyone was in town, they’d come and pay homage to Michael,” Walker said.
Walker even had a chance to jam with Hendrix—who practiced at Walker’s rehearsal space—but missed out on the opportunity when Hendrix died unexpectedly. “I could have played with him several times,” he said. “It’s just one of those things — you think that somebody’s going to be around …”
Walker, however, remained a student of music, moving to Chicago to learn Chicago blues and learning tricks from his mentor Bloomfield, whose band melded blues with psychedelic rock.
“The Butterfield band was people our age doing what we wanted to do,” Walker said. “And were really impressed that you could do it.”
As a popular guest musician, Walker estimates he’s played on 140 albums. As a solo act, the multiple Grammy winner has been successful, allowing him to live an upper-middle-class lifestyle that few bluesmen can afford. Yet Walker, like his buddy Bloomfield, has struggled with drug use.
Even before Bloomfield’s fatal overdose in 1981, Walker turned to gospel in an effort to clean up. He played gospel for a decade, beginning in 1975.
“The popular music lifestyle will eat you up, and anybody who’s been in it will tell you that,” he said. “You hear about people getting burned out, chewed up and spit out, from Britney Spears to George Jones, Jimi Hendrix and Mike Bloomfield to Joe Louis Walker. It spits people out. So you have to have something else. I don’t give a damn if you garden, if you make paper planes, if you go boating, like David Crosby — something else. Because if you get totally immersed in this, it becomes your world. And it’s not a real world.”
After Bloomfield died, Walker—already established as a musician— sought more enlightenment, earning degrees in music and English from San Francisco State University.
“I don’t like to be a one-trick pony,” he said. “I like the blues, but I don’t want to play blues every day. I like to read, but I don’t want to read ‘Rolling Stone’ every day. I want to feed my mind.”
By 1985 he returned to blues, and in 1986 he released the first of 20 solo albums, “Cold Is the Night.”
As his reputation as a solo act grew, he performed before two presidents — George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. The appearance for Bush’s inauguration was orchestrated by Lee Atwater, former head of the Republican party, who played blues guitar himself. In 1989, just months before he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, the late Atwater told “Hits” magazine that Walker’s album, “The Gift,” was his favorite record that year.
“He was probably my biggest fan in the world outside of my mother, when he was alive,” Walker said.
While he learned his trade hanging out in the San Francisco rock scene, Walker’s music has always been more inspired by traditional blues. Yet his next album, “Between Rock and the Blues,” will include more rock stylings. The album, due out later this month, features former “Late Show” band leader Kevin Eubanks and blues-man Duke Robillard.
“I see all the rock guys finding their blues roots,” he said. “Well, I’m finding my rock roots.”
March 2009 – A1Blues.com Interview
Hear the Joe Louis Walker interview as he talks about his blues journey as well as songs from Witness to the Blues which is one of the top selling blues CDs right now. By Mark Wade –
Byrd Hale Standford U Interview with JLW, Kevin Eubank & Mike Finnigan
BluesWax Sittin’ In With Joe Louis Walker
By Bob Putignano
“I don’t always stay in that one-four-five Blues thing all the time.”
Soon to be fifty-nine-years-old, Joe Louis Walker is still one of the most exciting and innovative artists on tour, as evidenced by his recent appearance at the Long Beach Blues Festival in sunny California this past Labor Day weekend.
Let’s backtrack to age fourteen when Walker picked up the guitar, playing Blues (with occasional romps into psychedelic Rock) during the blossoming San Francisco circuit. But by 1975 Walker was burnt out on Blues and turned to God, singing for the next decade with a Gospel group, the Spiritual Corinthians. But when the Corinthians played the 1985 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Walker became re-inspired to embrace his Blues roots again. He assembled a band, the Boss Talkers, and wrote some stunning originals that ended up on Cold Is the Night, his 1986 debut for the now defunct High Tone record label.
Cold Is the Night initiated Walker’s arrival in hair-raising fashion and then Walker followed with additional recordings for High Tone, as well as for Verve, which further established him as one of the leading younger Bluesmen on the scene. Walker is more acclaimed for his High Tone output, which also included 1988’s The Gift and 1989’s Blue Soul, plus two sparkling live sets (released in 1991 and ‘92) Live at Slims Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. Walker’s High Tone era ended in 1993 when he switched over to the then-upscale Verve label and five more discs followed that were a bit more commercial than the harder-edged High Tone recordings. Walker also recorded JLW for Polygram as well.
The new century saw Walker bouncing around various labels, which included two lack-luster disks for JSP and a much-improved outing for Telarc in 2002 titled In the Morning. Walker also recorded for Evidence and Mike Varney’s Blues Bureau imprint, which gave us the very nice and underappreciated New Direction in 2004. Yet after this new century’s flurry of activity, Walker has been absent from releasing a domestic recording for about four years. That is until his most recent effort, Witness to the Blues his first for the Canadian-based Stony Plain label produced by Duke Robillard. Which is precisely the time that I had an opportunity to check in with Mr. Joe Louis Walker.
Bob Putignano for BluesWax: How are you doing this morning, Joe?
Joe Louis Walker: I’m doing pretty good. How about you?
BW: You have been globetrotting all over the world.
JLW: That’s right, I’ve been all around this year, Czechoslovakia, Finland, Italy, Sicily, Germany…
BW: The new album, Witness to the Blues, is pretty hip and it’s your first one for Stony Plain and was produced by Duke Robillard.
JLW: Yes, I was very fortunate to have Duke produce this one for me. We had a lot fun making this recording.
BW: I had Duke in here a few weeks ago and he told me he was really happy about how your new album came out, plus he made sure he told me that he also plays on a few tracks, too! Did you record this new CD at his studio?
JLW: Yes we did, we recorded in Rhode Island.
BW: This CD has a nice glow to it.
JLW: There was good feelings during the sessions, plus all the musicians were great players, I could not have made it without them as they added so much of themselves to it.
BW: Will you be doing any gigs with Duke Robillard?
JLW: I think so, I think we are going to do some things in the future and, depending on Duke’s schedule, we are planning on doing some recording in November with a very special guest that I cannot say who it will be right yet. Sorry but I cannot let the cat out of the bag, but it is someone I have been wanting to record with for years. I will say that he’s a friend of mine that lives here on the East Coast, who’s been an inspiration to a lot of musicians.
BW: A Blues guy?
JLW: Oh, yeah.
BW: I’m just double-checking, as you’ve been a liberal-minded player.
JLW: Well, that’s right and we are just going to have a good time doing it.
BW: Will this be another Duke Robillard production for Stony Plain?
JLW: I think so.
BW: It’s hard to guess these days, especially the way the music business is.
JLW: Yeah, I think it will be Stony Plain.
BW: On High Tone records, who I just read were bought out by Shout Factory…
JLW: I believe so, but I don’t know for sure, as I have not spoken to the president of High Tone in a while, but I know he was in discussions about doing something for some time, so it might have come to fruition by now. I have not been living too much on the West Coast lately so I kind of lost touch with that scene. I just go and play out west and come back to New York.
BW: Is New York your home base now?
JLW: I kind of live on both ends.
BW: Not your traditional Bluesman.
JLW: In a way I am, as the old guys used to live pretty much everywhere and I’ve lived in Canada, France for a couple of years, England, Scandinavia, Colorado; so I’ve been around. I go where the music leads me and I don’t stay in one place too often.
BW: That’s cool that you can do that. Are you happy with the results of this recording?
JLW: I’m ecstatic! It was just so much fun to make and when you are having fun in the studio and can convey that on to a CD it’s just a good feeling. Every note doesn’t have to be correct, as people can feel that there are no bells and whistles and smoke and stuff like that, it’s just the purity in the music. No special effects and not a lot of overdubs or sweetening as we call it.
BW: That’s not easy to capture all of the time.
JLW: Sometimes it’s really hard, it’s also hard to do a live record, as people do too much thinking, you don’t want to think and play, you just want to play!
BW: Yeah, get the feel and let it go.
JLW: That’s right, just let it go with the flow.
BW: A nice packaged show would be to have you and Duke do some dates and then perhaps you two could sit in with each other as well, maybe at an intimate Jazz venue.
JLW: I think Duke and I are going to do some touring together; it would be fun.
BW: Being that you now both record for Stony Plain, I’m sure Holger Peterson would like that.
JLW: Holger is a very good guy and a serious music guy. Duke and I have done so many things together like Australia a couple of times; we’ve done the W.C. Handy Blues All-Stars shows, so we’ve done quite a few things together.
BW: Very good. Duke’s style of swing is quite different than yours. Do you get into that Duke swinging style of music? As I don’t recall hearing you play in that style.
JLW: Oh yeah, I play all kinds of stuff. I don’t always stay in that one-four-five Blues thing all the time.
BW: Well, it’s been a pleasure chatting with you Joe.
JLW: Thank you, Bob, I sure do appreciate the support and thank everyone out there as well, too.
Bob Putignano is a contributing editor at BluesWax. You may contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BLUEGRASS SPECIAL INTERVIEW by David McGee
“Keep On Believin’” – Joe Louis Walker Is A Witness To The Blues. Ask Him.
If you’re looking for a straight answer, Joe Louis Walker is not your man. Oh, he’s truthful in his responses, straight in that sense. But how he gets to the point is, well, roundabout. There’s no prevarication about what the meaning of “is” is, but to ask a question of Joe Louis Walker is to embark on a journey. He’ll address the topic at hand directly but, being big on context, he takes his interlocutor into the deeper history that brought him to a particular point in time. See, he’s an educated man, with a degree in Music and English from San Francisco State University that he earned after retiring to academia in the wake of the 1981 death of his friend and musical colleague (and roommate) Mike Bloomfield, who, like JLW, was something of a legendary blues guitarist, as readers might recall. He knows how deceiving and misleading simple answers can be; better still, he knows the full story can provide a richer experience than the short version.
That’s because Joe Louis Walker knows the full story. He’s traveled the blues highway since rising to prominence in the Bay Area blues scene as a 16-year-old in 1965. Influenced by great blues guitarists and entertainers such as T-Bone Walker and B.B. King, and equally gifted blues piano players such as Meade Lux Lewis and boogie woogie king Pete Johnson, San Francisco native Walker (who now makes his home in Westchester, NY, a few miles north of New York City) early on developed a signature sound on his Fender Strat marked by his stinging, lyrical lines and elegant, economical phrasing. He’s played with a virtual Blues Encyclopedia of towering 20th Century musical giants from a range of disciplines, from John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Otis Rush and Thelonious Monk to the Soul Stirrers, Jimi Hendrix, Nick Lowe and Steve Miller (among many, many others, as the expression goes). Following Bloomfield’s death, he immersed himself in one of his first loves, gospel, by performing with the Spiritual Corinthians gospel quartet. He returned to the blues on his first solo album, Cold Is the Night, in 1986, and has since wasted no opportunity to fuse the blues with other musical styles, as on his 1994 album, JLW, which teamed him with Chicago blues legend James Cotton but also with jazz virtuoso Branford Marsalis and the Tower of Power horns. Or 2002’s In the Morning, which did some heavy mining in the Memphis vein, on the spiritual “Where Jesus Leads,” on the gritty, powerhouse R&B of “Strange Love,” on the slinky groove he found in the Stones’ “2120 Michigan Avenue” (the song itself being a tribute to Chess Records, from whence JLW drew much inspiration as well), and in the Latin flavoring of “You’re Just About to Lose Your Crown.” One of the acknowledged gems in Walker’s catalogue came in 2002 (a productive year for the artist that found him releasing three new albums in little more than 12 months’ time) with the ambitious, infectious Pasa Tiempo, a meshing of blues, soul and R&B with a Latin foundation, working on songs by Van Morrison, Otis Redding, John Hiatt and Boz Scaggs supplemented by three powerful Walker originals. Those included two extended workouts with Latin grooves, “Barcelona” (five minutes-plus) and “Pasa Tiempo” (clocking in at close to four-and-a-half minutes), and the seven-minutes-plus “You Get What You Give,” a smoky, churning, downcast blues lament aimed at a faithless lover, with Walker’s accusatory vocal bolstered by Ernie Watts’s searing sax solos and Wally Snow’s atmospheric, noir-ish vibes before the tune breaks into a brisk strut at the six-minute mark, allowing for an exhilarating improvisational discourse between Watts, Snow, percussionist Master Henry Gibson and drummer Leon Ndugu Chancler, with Walker adding only a tasty, compact guitar filigree at the end.
Now comes the appropriately titled Witness To the Blues, which finds JLW on the Canada-based Stony Plain label. With an able assistant from producer/guitarist Duke Robillard, Walker fashions an invigorating jaunt into blues country, working that Memphis-Muscle Shoals-Clarksdale axis for all it’s worth with a horn-bolstered band, a variety of guitars at his disposal and a stirring collection of songs, more than half of which he penned, ranging from mean woman blues to gospel-rooted pleas.
History, personal and otherwise, runs rampant on the tracks: there’s a Sly Stone “Take You Higher” horn quote energizing the album opener, “It’s a Shame”; the rockabilly-blues fusion of his own “Midnight Train,” which blends the doghouse bass and fierce rhythm of Elvis Presley’s Sun side with the grit and urgency of Junior Parker’s original Sun recording, and even references a memorable lyric from the source song at the end; and twice on the record he makes reference to being “100 percent more man” (including in a grinding, wailing blues near the end titled, yes, “100% More Man,” concerning a young woman, which would seem to be a testosterone reduction in deference to the late Bo Diddley, who famously boasted of being “500 percent more man.” One of the compelling, tender moments comes in his reprise of the Peggy Scott/Jo Jo Benson salacious classic, “Lover’s Holiday,” with Walker and Shemekia Copeland engaging in a sultry duet reminiscent of heated couplings on disc by Otis Redding and Carla Thomas, an impression reinforced by the funky Stax-style backing keyed by a scratchy guitar and Bruce Katz’s voluble organ support (a symbolic tipping of the hat to the three Walker albums co-produced with Steve Cropper?). Adding depth to the subject matter is Walker’s powerful, churning “Witness,” a Muscle Shoals-styled mussing of the gospel/soul boundary line in which he reflects on the numbing number of lost, lonely, needy souls he sees all around him, even while admitting to personal spiritual failings en route to “my way back home.” Describing his quest in anguished detail, Walker shouts an aggrieved testimony over a rich musical backdrop percolating along at a steady, midtempo march but escalating in intensity as the song evolves, culminating in a grand explosion of organ, piano, guitar and thunderous drums as Walker howls, “Raise up! Raise up!” in exhorting his listeners to reach out to the less fortunate among them, an appeal as inspiring as Springsteen’s “Rise up! Rise up!” in “The Rising,” and a forceful reminder to boot of Walker’s deep roots in gospel music. Echoes of Jimmy Hughes permeate “Keep On Believin’,” which in title and style comes out of the church and heads for secular ground (it’s a man’s vow to stay true to a woman whose feelings for him are uncertain), again with Katz’s emotive organ dominating the feel of the track and Walker injecting trebly, anxious guitar lines and being shadowed vocally by an insistent chorus in call-and-response mode. It’s always a treat to hear JLW do an acoustic number, and this album’s suggestive Delta blues, “I Got What You Need,” is a righteous, rhythmic workout between the artist and his producer, playing in tandem and trading bristling solos, Walker on slide, Robillard picking, and JLW expressing to his reluctant paramour his desire to be “your 100 percent man,” a theme fully developed two songs later.
So in many ways Witness To the Blues is not an unusual Joe Louis Walker album, but its energy is of a different order. Walker agrees, and points out “we just went in the studio and played, not a whole bunch of overdubbings, not a whole bunch of bells and whistles.”
Now, the context: “You know what it is?” he begins. “I’ve worked with great producers–Tony Visconti, Steve Cropper. I’d been off tour and I said, ‘Let me call some of my partners.’ So I called John Hammond, we were playing phone tag; I called Larry Coryell, and Larry moved to Florida; something told me to call Duke Robillard. Me and Duke have done a lot of playing together, we played Australia together on several occasions, we played B.B. King’s club, and so I told Duke I had the songs and was going to be demo’ing ‘em and I needed to get somebody to produce the record. A light went on in my head and I said, ‘Hey, man, would you be interested in doing something?’ And Duke said, ‘I’d be honored.’ Boy, did I get lucky. So just like Cropper or Tony Visconti, he never tells you what you can’t do. If you have a disagreement about a particular part of a song, Cropper would say, ‘Take a tape home, listen to it.’ Every time I’d bring it back the next day I’d tell Cropper, ‘Don’t ever listen to me.’ He’s so gentlemanly; you gotta pull teeth to get Cropper to tell you how things are done. Same with Duke, same with Scotty Moore, same with Ike Turner. They have that thing-they’ve been in the studio, especially Cropper and Scotty. Those guys are what I call ’studio rats’-they made shit work that wasn’t even invented! Now everybody takes it for granted. So I was real fortunate.”
Ah, yes. Wax enthusiastic to Walker about the sultriness of Shemekia Copeland’s duet vocal with him on “Lover’s Holiday,” and he not only agrees but also offers insights into the art of singing, and you find you might never have figured on someone identifying Stevie Ray Vaughan as a gospel singer. Well, listen to the man: “Yeah, I knew Shemekia’s dad. [Note: the late Texas blues great Johnny Copeland] I played on her first record, and Shemekia’s only going to get better. She’s almost at the top of her game now. She’s smart. As good as she sings, she’s taking music lessons. I did the same thing about 15, 20 years ago, just to be able to call up certain things, like learning how to sing from your stomach. It takes discipline to sing from your stomach. You hear somebody like Bob Dylan, I love Bob Dylan, he sings from his nose. But then when you heard Nashville Skyline, he was singing from his stomach. You know he’d been in that wreck, and you gotta breathe in the hospital. Now Bob’s back to singing the way he used to, but he’s still Bob Dylan. He learned how to sing right. Same thing with Elton John–he came out and said it. It takes time to learn. I give him credit for doing that. But good gospel singers sometimes sing from their nose too–like Stevie Ray, when he needed to get a point across. But you hear someone like Little Milton, or Otis Rush, or B.B., and they’re singing from their stomach. That’s why it sounds so powerful. You want a big sound? Open your mouth. That’s why when you see someone like Pavarotti and he’s hitting a high note, a hard note, his mouth is open–if you make a mistake, make it loud and proud. It’s like playing guitar. I don’t like when guys chop the notes off. They do that because they’ve run out of breath. Then you hear some singers who can just hold a note forever.”
Take him into gospel territory proper to discuss his two songs in that vein on Witness To the Blues-”Witness” and “Keep On Believin’”–and history begins to curl in on itself, but it starts way back at the beginning of his career. He was 16 when he wrote “Witness,” but he considered it incomplete until he added the gospel call-and-response chorus for these sessions that he considered the song complete. “That’s what I’d been waiting for since I was 16,” he says. “I just never found a place for it. On Pasa Tiempo I did a song called ‘Barcelona.’ I wrote that when I was 19 and I could never find a place for it. Pasa Tiempo lends itself to a different part of me. If you ever notice on that album, I don’t take but two guitar solos; I do most of the singing. I had Phil Upchurch do a guitar solo on ‘You Can’t Sit Down,’ which was an epiphany, and I was fortunate enough to have Matthew Henry, the guy Curtis Mayfield took when he left the Impressions and played all the stuff on the Superfly soundtrack, the percussionist; I had my home boy Barry Goldberg (Hammond organ); I had Ndugu Chancler, who is really Leon Ware, who played on Off the Wall and all the Michael Jackson stuff. But the biggest thing is I had my partner Ernie Watts on saxophone. We had always talked about making a record. And it was a big deal.”
Talk about “Witness” leads to background on a project that might really be something to behold if it ever comes to pass, a gospel album pairing Walker with the Jordanaires and the Blind Boys of Alabama. It’s developed no further than a demo recording, but it’s a live prospect. “I told Ray Walker of the Jordanaires about my idea about recording with the Blind Boys and he said, “Me and Clarence Fountain were talking about that about a month ago. But it would be good for you to do it, Joe. Write some songs.’ So I’d written a song called ‘Soldier for Jesus’ for a record I did called New Directions. Ray heard the song and just flipped. He says, ‘This is what I’m talking about-it’s not preachy,’ and it’s true, I am a soldier for Jesus. I’m not a Bible thumper but I do believe that somebody did die for the rest of us. It wasn’t George Bush, that’s for sure.
“But that brought us all together, and I cut a demo of ‘Mary Don’t You Weep’ in my funky way-rockin’-and I did my version of ‘Wade In the Water.’ I had to get everybody in the same place at the same time. But [Blind Boys lead singer] Clarence Fountain is on a dialysis machine, and without Clarence, it’s like the Temptations without David Ruffin. I liked Dennis Edwards, but if you give me David Ruffin signing, ‘I know you gonna leave me…’ you know, I’ll listen to that other shit later.”
And what about that “100 percent more man” declaration? Turns out it’s only a partial tribute to Bo Diddley. The bigger picture is more resonant with moving history. “It’s a cross of the ‘man’ songs,” Walker says. “‘Mannish Boy,’ Muddy Waters; ‘I’m a Man,’ Bo Diddley, he’s 500 percent more man. That’s what it is, that’s where it came from. ‘I once had a little girl/she didn’t understand/all I wanted to do/was be 500 percent more man.’ Well, that’s like Muddy–’Can’t lose what you never had/but I’m a man’–the mannish boy thing. When Martin Luther King died, there was a garbage workers strike going on in Memphis. If you look at the videotape, all the garbage workers have signs that say, ‘I’m a man.’ You would think it’s from the Civil Rights Movement, but when they were asked, no, it was from the Muddy Waters song, ‘I’m a Man.’ Bo Diddley had ‘I’m a Man,’ Muddy had ‘Mannish Boy,’ which is a black saying for ‘you think you’re mannish,’ and it’s also for a woman who’s just like a man–’she looks real mannish.’ So Muddy took it home in our vernacular; Bo Diddley took it home so that people like the Stones and you could understand it. But the Muddy one, the show he used to do with that was incredible-take a bottle of beer, put it in his crotch, take it to the front of the audience, open it and let it spray all over the audience. That was Muddy. Muddy never lost the power. He puts us all in the mind of an Egyptian king. Muddy accepted everybody. He schooled Mick Jagger; he schooled my home boy Mike Bloomfield. He took Johnny Winter as a second son. He may have inspired and influenced even more artists than B.B. His music was so inclusive; everybody did a Muddy Waters song. Muddy was a direct link, from Son House to Muddy to Bloomfield to Clapton to all the rest. Bo Diddley the same way. John Lennon would have been a skinhead, Keith Richards would have been a dope fiend, but when they heard that music it changed their lives and gave them a purpose. Classical music’s great, but you have to be a virtuoso; jazz is great but you have to have a musical thesaurus sometimes; rock ‘n’ roll, which Chuck Berry invented, is all right–that gave everybody a purpose too. But Muddy gave everybody a bigger purpose.”
Now that’s a witness to the blues. Next up is a project 15 years in the making: an album with Johnny Winter, who’s been battling severe health problems in recent years stemming form his albinism, but is, according to Walker, up to making their long deferred dream a reality. Sessions will begin this month in Winter’s studio at his Connecticut home. Even here, history informs the process.
“That’s my partner,” Walker says of Winter. “I think he deserves a medal for what he did with Muddy, and he’s one of the most sensitive musicians I know. He’s like a brother to me. For him to want to do this with me is flattering.”