When it comes to playing the mouth harp, or the harmonica, few had mastered the instrument like Little Walter. His approach to harmonica playing was nothing short of revolutionary. Walter was a rascally individual, full of attitude and bitter about the cards he had been dealt. The cards of life. They were a source of the Blues. Hard times and troubles were a source of gut-wrenching soul, heart felt music, for so many Bluesmen. Little Walter was one of those, for sure.
Born in Rapides Parish, Louisiana, in the poorest of conditions Walter quit school at the age of 12 and headed to New Orleans. He was already proficient at the mouth harp, and that would be his source of income on the streets of New Orleans. Playing on street corners for change was his source of income, not just in New Orleans, but in Memphis, St. Louis and West Helena, Arkansas. Walter has also learned the guitar, but anyone who ever heard Walter Jacobs play the mouth harp, new immediately that he had no future with the guitar. In 1945 he landed in Chicago. Paid his dues on Maxwell Street, and became a regular hanging out at Chess Records, and befriending Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon. Walter became one of the main players at Chess, he also brought plenty of baggage where ever he went.
Alcoholism took a toll on Walter Jacobs over the years. His short temper combined with the booze led to many run-ins with bar patrons and police alike. After a a round of fist-a-cuffs, he sustained what appeared to be minor injuries, however he would pass away in his sleep at the apartment of a girl friend. The cause of death was officially listed as coronary thrombosis (a blood clot in the heart). Living a violent life he had caught up with Little Walter, andwhich ultimately led to his death, at the age of 37. Little Walter will always be remembered as the Blues harpist that made the instrument a vital part of the Blues experience.