Publicity photo of Walker, 1942
|Birth name||Aaron Thibeaux Walker|
|Also known as||Oak Cliff T-Bone|
May 28, 1910|
Linden, Texas, U.S.
|Died||March 16, 1975
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Genres||Blues, electric blues, Texas blues, Chicago blues, jump blues, West Coast blues|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, composer, bandleader|
|Instruments||Guitar, vocals, piano, banjo, ukulele, violin, mandolin|
|Labels||Atlantic, Black & Blue, Black & White, Blues Way Records, Brunswick, Capitol, Charly, Columbia, Duke, Imperial, Modern, Polydor, Reprise|
Aaron Thibeaux "T-Bone" Walker (May 28, 1910 – March 16, 1975) was a critically acclaimed American blues guitarist, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who was an influential pioneer and innovator of the jump blues and electric blues sound. In 2011, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him number 67 on its list of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".
Walker was born in Linden, Texas, of African-American and Cherokee descent. His parents, Movelia Jimerson and Rance Walker, were both musicians. His stepfather, Marco Washington, taught him to play the guitar, ukulele, banjo, violin, mandolin, and piano.
Walker began his career as a teenager in Dallas in the 1920s. His mother and stepfather (a member of the Dallas String Band) were musicians, and Blind Lemon Jefferson, a family friend, sometimes came over for dinner. Walker left school at the age of 10, and by 15 he was a professional performer on the blues circuit. Initially, he was Jefferson's protégé and would guide him around town for his gigs. In 1929, Walker made his recording debut with Columbia Records, billed as Oak Cliff T-Bone, releasing the single "Wichita Falls Blues" backed with "Trinity River Blues". Oak Cliff is the community in which he lived at the time, and T-Bone is a corruption of his middle name. The pianist Douglas Fernell played accompaniment on the record.
Walker married Vida Lee in 1935; the couple had three children. By the age of 25, Walker was working in clubs on Central Avenue, in Los Angeles, sometimes as the featured singer and guitarist with Les Hite's orchestra. In 1940 he recorded with Hite for the Varsity label, but he was only featured as a singer.
In 1942, Charlie Glenn, owner of the Rhumboogie Café brought T-Bone Walker to Chicago for long-time stints in his club. In 1944 and 1945, Walker also recorded for the Rhumboogie label that was tied to the club, backed up by Marl Young's orchestra.
Much of his output was recorded from 1946 to 1948 for Black & White Records, including his most famous song, "Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just as Bad)" (1947). Other notable songs he recorded during this period were "Bobby Sox Blues" (a number 3 R&B hit in 1947) and "West Side Baby" (number 8 on the R&B singles charts in 1948).
He recorded from 1950 to 1954 for Imperial Records (backed by Dave Bartholomew). Walker's only record in the next five years was T-Bone Blues, recorded during three widely separated sessions in 1955, 1956 and 1959 and released by Atlantic Records in 1960.
By the early 1960s, Walker's career had slowed down, in spite of an energetic performance at the American Folk Blues Festival in 1962 with the pianist Memphis Slim and the prolific writer and musician Willie Dixon, among others. However, several critically acclaimed albums followed, such as I Want a Little Girl (recorded for Delmark Records in 1968). Walker recorded in his last years, from 1968 to 1975, for Robin Hemingway's music publishing company, Jitney Jane Songs. He won a Grammy Award for Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording in 1971 for Good Feelin', while signed with Polydor Records, produced by Hemingway, followed by another album produced by Hemingway, Fly Walker Airlines, released in 1973.
Chuck Berry named Walker and Louis Jordan as his main influences. B.B. King cited hearing Walker's recording of "Stormy Monday" as his inspiration for getting an electric guitar. Walker was admired by Jimi Hendrix, who imitated Walker's trick of playing the guitar with his teeth. "Stormy Monday" was a favorite live number of the Allman Brothers Band.
With Jimmy Witherspoon
With Eddie Vinson