The fifth entry, in no particular order, on my list of great yet accessible blues is T-Bone Walker’s “T-Bone Blues” It was released 50 years ago, back in 1959, and is probably the last essential album by this most important of all blues guitar players. I was reading Living Blues magazine this morning and “T-Bone Blues” was recently inducted into the Blues Foundation’s Hall of Fame in the album category for 2009. All I can say is that it is about time. This is arguably the best collection by blue’s most important guitar player.
T-Bone Walker was born Aaron Thibeault Walker in Dallas in 1910. T-Bone was a moniker derived from his middle name. If you look through blues and jazz history from the country blues to the electric urban blues, big-band swing, and also from soul to R&B, one name is universal: T-Bone Walker. His influence on blues and popular music in general can never be understated. He is the wellspring. Every guitar player that followed him whether they knew it or not owed T-Bone a debt of gratitude. If there was no T-Bone Walker, then we may never have seen B.B.King, Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughan. He was guitar’s first true lead player, and undeniably one of its very best.
In 1925 he joined the Dr. Breedings medicine show and performed with this and many other rural carnival shows as a dancer and banjo player. He started recording in 1929 but didn’t make much impact until 10 years later. In fact, the race record market collapsed with the onset of the depression and he was not to record again for nearly ten years. In the interim he played with people like Cab Calloway, Charlie Christian, Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong. Soaking up everything he could from some of the biggest names in music at the time.
In 1939 he recorded his first tune on the electric guitar. After that blues would be changed forever. He often said that he had been playing electric a long time before that making him one of the first to play the electric guitar, though his friend Christian is often credited as the first electric guitarist. The two were buddies and had played together on the streets together so chances are they both were playing electric at the same time. As far as blues are concerned though, he was first. The fact that Christian passed away in 1942 made it so that T-Bone ended up casting a much larger shadow.
Many critics and writers point to T-Bone’s “The Complete Imperial Recordings: 1950-1954″ as the best that Walker has to offer. Personally, I think the recordings on “T-Bone Blues” are better. 50 years later he still sounds like he is sitting in the same room as you. A lot of his greatest songs are here, such as, “They Call It Stormy Monday”. On this record you can hear his influence on people such as Chuck Berry and BB King. Two icons themselves. Many of these songs are re-recordings of some of his best stuff from the 40′s and this improved sound quality of his prime material makes “T-Bone Blues” perhaps the most enjoyable album Walker ever made. This is one of those records that while being accessible is also brilliant and indespensible. If you are starting a serious blues collection this is essential.
1 Papa Ain’t Salty (McDaniel, Walker) 2:45
2 Why Not [*] 2:44
3 T-Bone Shuffle (Walker) 2:47
4 Play on Little Girl Walker 2:29
5 T-Bone Blues Special [*] (Walker) 2:28
6 Mean Old World Goldsen, (Walker) 4:05
7 T-Bone Blues (Hite) 3:45
8 Stormy Monday (Walker) 3:03
9 Blues for Marili (Walker) 4:18
10 Shufflin’ the Blues (Walker) 3:20
11 Evening (Parish, White) 2:37
12 Two Bones and a Pick (Walker) 2:47
13 You Don’t Know What You’re Doing [*] (Adams, Holmes) 1:43
14 How Long Blues [*] (Carr) 5:15
15 Blues Rock (Walker) 2:41