Song of the Day: Little Walter, “Shake Dancer”

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Little Walter (Marion Walter Jacobs) came to Chicago in 1945 and by 1948 was playing harmonica for Muddy Waters. He left Muddy’s band in 1952 and started fronting his own band. His first single, “Juke,” reached #1 on the Billboard R&B chart, and he was to have 14 Top 10 hits for Checker Records (a subsidiary of Chess Records) over the next 15 years. He pioneered the use of the amplified harmonica, using a small handheld microphone, and experimented with various effects including reverb and distortion. “Shake Dancer” was one of his later singles, recorded in 1964, though it didn’t chart.

8 thoughts on “Song of the Day: Little Walter, “Shake Dancer”

      1. Oh I just meant the song in general…those recordings from that time period beat the hell out of more modern techniques. In my opinion…which is not worth a darn….music sometimes loses something in digital.

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        1. Neil Young said that he hated the old albums that had been converted to digital for CD’s. That was that whole AAD and ADD business they had on CD’s in the early days (25-30 years ago). I guess that’s why they’re remastering a lot of them, to try and clean up all the stuff that was lost when they went through the previous processes.

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  1. I don’t know this song but I enjoyed listening to it. It came out the year I was born. I didn’t know he was the one that started using the harmonica this way that become the norm. Love learning the tidbits you come out with

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    1. He was a real innovator. He was influenced by Charlie Parker, so his approach was as much jazz as blues. He might have gotten the idea of amplifying his harmonica from somewhere else or not, but he was the one that experimented with electronic effects (basically reverb). And he was the first blues harmonica player that used the chromatic harmonica as well as the diatonic (diatonic basically plays in one key, chromatic allows for pushing the notes up a half-step by means of a button on the side so you can play in any key – you might have already known that, but in csae you didn’t…)

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