Marion "Little Walter" Jacobs was born in Marksville, Louisiana in 1930. At a young age he first began playing polkas and waltzes on the 10 hole diatonic harmonica and by the time he was 12 he was busking the streets of New Orleans.
At the age of 14 he moved to Helena, Arkansas where he befriended harmonicists Rice Miller and Walter Horton who greatly influenced his early years. Around 1945 Little Walter discovered the jump swing of saxophonist Louis Jordan and spent much time learning his solos note for note on harmonica.
In 1947 Little Walter moved to Chicago with Honeyboy Edwards, and became a part of the famous Maxwell Street scene. While in Chicago he soon began to play in a trio with Jimmy Rogers and Muddy Waters, which eventually led to one of the most influential blues groups ever formed.
Little Walter is credited with recording the first amplified instrument that intentionally used distortion on Muddy Water's "Long Distance Call" in 1950. The use of tube amplifiers allowed the harmonica to reach vastly new heights of expression and Little Walter constantly experimented with various combinations of microphones and amplifiers.
Little walter began recording as a leader and o
n May 12, 1952 Little Walter recorded "Juke" which instantly skyrocketed to #1 on the Billboard charts and held that position for 8 straight weeks. This was an amazing accomplishment for a harmonica instrumental! Little walter continued to record with Fred Below on drums, Willie Dixon on bass, Robert Jr Lockwood and Fred and Dave Myers on guitars for the Checker label, and produced more top 10 hits with "My Babe", "Sad Hours", "Blues with a Feeling", "Your So Fine", "Mean Old World", "Last Night", "Roller Coaster", Key to the Highway", "Who", "Oh Baby", "You Better Watch Yourself" and "Tell Me Mama". Little Walter continued to record with other artists including Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Jimmy Rogers, Memphis Minnie, The Coronets, Johnny Shines, Floyd Jones, Bo Diddley and Otis Rush.
Little Walter was notorious for drinking and fighting and on February 14
, 1968, Walter Jacobs died of injuries sustained in a Chicago street fight. He was only 37 years old. During his short career, Little Walter's influence on the blues and for that matter, all modern music, was collosal.