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 one of the most influential pioneers and innovators of the jump blues and electric blues sound. In 2003, Rolling Stone
magazine ranked him at #47 on their list of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". On Rolling Stone
's 2011 list of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" Walker had dropped to #67.Early yearsT-Bone Walker, né Aaron Thibeaux Walker
was born in Linden, Texas, of African-American and Cherokee descent. Walker's 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 early 1900s. His mother and stepfather (a member of the Dallas String Band) were musicians, and family friend Blind Lemon Jefferson 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"/"Trinity River Blues". Oak Cliff was the community he lived in at the time and T-Bone a corruption of his middle name. 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 at the clubs in Los Angeles' Central Avenue, sometimes as the featured singer and guitarist with Les Hite's orchestra.
By 1942, with his second album release, Walker's new-found musical maturity and ability had advanced to the point that Rolling Stone
claimed that he "shocked everyone" with his newly developed distinctive sound upon the release of his first single "Mean Old World", on the Capitol Records label. Much of his output was recorded from 1946 to 1948 on Black & White Records, including his most famous song, 1947's "Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just as Bad)". Other notable songs he recorded during this period were "Bobby Sox Blues" (a #3 R&B hit in 1946), and "West Side Baby" (#8 on the R&B singles charts in 1948).Throughout his career Walker worked with top-notch musicians, including trumpeter Teddy Buckner, pianist Lloyd Glenn, Billy Hadnott (bass), and tenor saxophonist Jack McVea.Following his work with White and Black, 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 over three widely separated sessions in 1955, 1956 and 1959, and finally released by Atlantic Records in 1960.By the early 1960s, Walker's career had slowed down, in spite of a hyped appearance at the American Folk Blues Festival in 1962 with Memphis Slim and 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 Jitney Jane Songs music publishing company, and he won a Grammy Award for Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording in 1971 for Good Feelin'
, while signed by Polydor Records, produced by Hemingway, followed by another album produced by Hemingway: Walker's Fly Walker Airlines
, which was released in 1973.Walker's career began to wind down after he suffered a stroke in 1974. He died of bronchial pneumonia following another stroke in March 1975, at the age of 64. Walker was interred in the Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California.
Walker was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980, and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.Chuck Berry named Walker and Louis Jordan as his main influences. B.B. King cites hearing Walker's "Stormy Monday" record 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 for The Allman Brothers Band.