Mississippi Writers and Musicians
MISSISSIPPI MUSICIANS: Walter Horton


Walter HortonWalter Horton, Courtesy of AMG All Music Guide

Major Works

  • The Soul of Blues Harmonica (1964)
  • Walter Horton and Carey Bell  (1972)
  • Fine Cuts  (1978)
  • Little Boy Blue (1980)
  • Walter Horton (1986)
  • Harmonica Blues Kings
  • Mouth Harp Maestro (1988)
  • The Be-Bop Boy (1993)

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Walter Horton: A Biography
By Daisy Goodman (SHS)

Walter Horton was born April 6, 1918 in Horn Lake, Mississippi.  Walter was known as "Big Walter," "Shakey," and "Mumbles."  Horton claimed to have taught himself to play the harmonica by the age of five. Walter was a shy, sensitive man that dealt with poverty most of his life.  He expressed himself through his music.  This skill helped Horton to become one of the greatest Chicago blues harp players in his time and to define modern amplified Chicago style harmonica.  Horton never became famous due to his few recordings and his constant role as a sideman.Daisy Goodman, SHS researcher

Horton's harmonica style was more sweet toned and less dynamic than other harmonica players.  His solos seemed to "soothe the soul" rather than irritate it.  There was no harp player that had Horton's big tone and spacious sense of time.  Horton was shy and not a group leader which is why he never recorded many solo albums, but he did appear in several Chicago blues albums as a backup harmonica.

In 1927 Horton began his career with the Memphis Jug Band but did not make a mark until he recorded a couple of records for Sam Phillips.  Two of those songs are "Easy," which has a striking harp instrumental piece, and "I Almost Lost My Mind." Horton then worked the Southern dance and picnic circuit and also the Memphis street corners.  Horton played briefly with the Muddy Waters' band and played the classic harp piece for "Forty Days and Forty Nights."

Horton moved to Chicago in the late 1940's but came back to Memphis to play on records released by Modern/RPM and Sun.  Horton recorded four sides in 1951 for Modern/RPM label under the nickname "Mumbles."  Horton returned in 1953 to Chicago after accepting an invitation from Eddie Taylor to play in his band.  "Mad Love (I Want You to Love Me)" was recorded in 1953.

Blues became popular with white people during the sixties and Horton's music career excelled.  He traveled throughout the Untied States and Europe sharing his music with many audiences.   Horton recorded his first solo album in the mid sixties and the produced several albums throughout the rest of the sixties and early seventies.  During the seventies Horton played at folk and blues festivals and often with Willie Dixon's Chicago Blues All-Stars.  In 1972 Horton recorded with Carey Bell for Alligator Records.  Big Walter Horton with Carey Bell featured duets between the teacher and student.  Horton continued to record music until his death in 1981.  Walter Horton was later inducted into the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame.

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Timeline

  • 1918    Walter Horton was born in Horn Lake, Mississippi, April 6, 1918.
  • 1923    Walter Horton began playing the harmonica at the age of five.
  • 1927    Walter Horton began his career at the age of nine with the Memphis Jug Band.
  • 1930    Walter Horton was playing professionally and recorded with the Memphis Jug Band.
  • 1939    Walter Horton was the harmonica accompanist on Buddy Doyle's records.
  • 1940's  Walter Horton moved to Chicago.
  • 1950's  Walter Horton played many classic recordings for States, Cobra, and Chess Records, including sessions  with Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Otis Rush.
  • 1951    Walter Horton recorded four sides for Modern/RPM and Sun.
  • 1953    Walter Horton returned to Chicago to play in Eddie Taylor's band.
  • 1953    Walter Horton recorded "Mad Love (I Want You to Love Me)".
  • 1960's  Walter Horton's music career excelled as blues became popular.
  • 1970's  Walter Horton played at blues clubs and folk and blues festivals.
  • 1972    Big Walter Horton with Carey Bell was produced by  Alligator Records.
  • 1981    Walter Horton became deceased, December 8, 1981.
  • 1982    Walter Horton was inducted into the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame.

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Review of Everybody's Fishin'

Walter Horton was born to play the harmonica.  He seems to make the harmonica mingle and flow with the music. The singer of the band does not have a  very musical voice, but the scruffy voice of the singer brings out the jazz of the music.  This song sounds like something out of the Big Easy.  Louisiana is known for it's style of jazz and this song belongs in Louisiana!  There is a certain brass sound that just envelopes the entire song. This song is just the epitome of the jazz world.  This song contains astonishing phrases and bars.  Walter Horton may have been a shy, quiet man, but when he picked up the harmonica he went through a complete metamorphous.  He speaks through his instrument and really gets his point across.  The world may not have been such a lovely place for Walter, but his music seemed to improve his environments.

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Bibliography

Clarke, Donald, ed.  The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music.  New York: Viking,  1989.

Larking, Colin, ed.  The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music.  Vol. 3.  New York: Square One Books Ltd and Guinness Publishing Ltd. (c) 1995.

http://www.sonicnet.com/allmusic/ai_bio.jhtml?ai_id=18821.

http://allmusic.com/cg/x.dll?UID=3:21:56lPM&p=amg&uid=3:21:56lPM&sql=B373

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