T-Bone Walker ‘T-Bone Jumps Again’

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - NEWS - Donal Di­neen

The 1930s were a fast-mov­ing decade for mu­sic. The ar­rival of the elec­tric gui­tar in 1931 brought a whole di­men­sion to the pro­duc­tion of sound. The al­ready ver­sa­tile acous­tic gui­tar could be am­pli­fied ten­fold and cre­ate sounds pre­vi­ously un­heard. This was boom boom time for the in­no­va­tors. A world of pos­si­bil­i­ties opened up to the more son­i­cally in­clined of the gospel, jazz and blues play­ers.

Elec­tric­ity brought new po­ten­tial for emo­tional im­pact to the in­stru­ment. T-Bone Walker was one of those whose ears were tuned to fu­ture prospects and fame. The light­ning flash that the in­ven­tion of the charged-up gui­tar brought was per­fect tim­ing for him. He was ready for the jump.

He had good school­ing. Both his par­ents were mu­si­cians and his early teens were spent act­ing as a guide for the highly in­no­va­tive Blind Le­mon Jef­fer­son who was one of the very first Texas blues­men to be recorded. T-Bone Walker was ef­fec­tively on the scene for starter’s or­ders. By the age of 14, he was danc­ing and sing­ing pro­fes­sion­ally in medicine shows.

His own ca­reer was pri­mar­ily a live ori­en­tated one. The stage and not the stu­dio was his haven. But he had the nous to re­alise that the en­ergy an au­di­ence gave him could be cor­ralled in the stu­dio. This com­pi­la­tion is a doc­u­ment of just how of­ten he nailed it in such a fine fashion.

His live record­ings are vivid ex­am­ples of a force­ful player with pres­ence. It’s mighty real. There’s blood in this mu­sic. His stomp­ing feet are the foun­da­tion of many a killer groove. His com­fort with his cho­sen alien ma­chine gar­nered the at­ten­tion of Char­lie Chris­tian. That an ex­tra­or­di­nary acous­tic player of Chris­tian’s abil­ity was in­flu­enced by Walker’s style is in­dica­tive of his stand­ing among his peers.

Walker made it hard for oth­ers not to take no­tice. He so per­fected this new-fan­gled in­stru­ment that he was the first to fool around with it in a play­ful way.

Jimi Hen­drix wasn’t the first to play the gui­tar with his teeth. That was T-Bone’s piece de re­sis­tance. He turned the blues a dif­fer­ent colour.

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