T-Bone (Aaron Thibeaux) Walker Essay

T-Bone (Aaron Thibeaux) Walker            Aaron Thibeaux Walker or Oak Cliff T-Bone as he was known by some was an American artist who occupied a very important place when it comes to the American blues. He was a pianist, guitarist, songwriter and a singer at the same time. This artist was born in 28th of May, 1910 in Texas to Movelia Jimerson and Rance Walker.

He is referred to as one of the fathers of the electric guitar and is ranked position forty seven in the top hundred most outstanding guitarists in the Rolling Stone Magazine. His interest in music started while he was only thirteen years old perhaps owing to the fact that his parents and his family friend, Lemon Jefferson were musicians. This paper is specifically going to focus on the role that Aaron Thibeaux Walker played in transforming blues in Texas and in America at large.            Walker’s parents loved music for example, his mother knew how to play guitar while his stepfather Washington apart from playing guitar, he would play other musical instruments such as ukulele, banjo, mandolin and violin and thus they taught Walker how to play some of these instruments. Walker’s career owed much to the works of their family friend, Lemon Jefferson who was blind. Acting as his guide, Walker would lead Jefferson to avenues where he would play his music[1].

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This gave Walker an opportunity to have a taste of what it is like to be a blues legendary while still very young. T-Bone walker as was popularly known ventured in the music world by playing banjo, dancing and singing while accompanying the most influential blues artists such as Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey “He was raised in Dallas, exposed to music as a youngster by his stepfather, who taught him guitar, as well as ukulele, banjo, violin, mandolin, and piano. The house was a constant source of music and inspiration, and he played locally with his stepfather as street musicians”[2].

 He had a strong passion in mastering the art of playing guitar and would thus spend most of his time practicing and working with minstrel shows.  By doing this, he was able to gain the skills needed something that helped him to advance his career further.            Walker’s mastery of the art was portrayed by the way he would do splits and apply some phenomenal facial expressions whilst playing.  The magnitude his music had on his audience could simply be measured by how people clapped, hollered and screamed anticipating for more.

It was said that he played his electric guitar in a manner that was unknown to others. Walker was very innovative in that while playing his solos would apply double timing something that had only been practiced by horn blowers. By thus doing, he would play notes almost twice as many as other guitarists would do making his style very unique[3].            He first made his public show in 1925 especially when he joined the Big B.

Tonic show and also toured in the south with Ida Cox. Fours years later, he was able to produce his first recording known as ‘Wichita Falls Blue’ in Dallas. His recording proved successful and helped him to win an award.

With this success, he was again able to go the south in conjunction with Calloway’s Band, Raisin; Cain show, Milt Larkin and Count Biloski. In 1935 he went to Los Angeles where his unmatched skills in playing banjo and guitar helped him to curve a niche in the American musical scene after playing in the two most popular American night clubs, the Alabam Club and the Little Harlem. His artistic skills attracted a big audience which was amazed by how he would perfectly combine some acrobatic performances with tap dancing and guitar.  His career progressed well such that by then he was popular enough to be an international star and in 1935 he became the first blues artist to play an electric guitar[4].            Some of his albums are like these ones below: Trailblazing the Blues, Blue Masters: The very Best of T-Bone Walker and the Original Source respectively.            It is also believed that his music sounded original because he approached blues from an angle different from what other musicians did.

Though he used to play blues with his associate Charlie Christian, Walker slightly changed his music by adding some notes to his solos that were unheard of in the traditional blues. Apart from this, Walker would also play long phrases using eighth note something that was characteristic of jazz musicians[5]. He is also remembered for the way he stroked the 9th chord voicing and change chords half-steps either below or above between the 9th and 6th chord.

This style influenced Jimmy Nolen who 20 years later would introduce the same tactics in his funk rhythm guitar. Other things that made his music to be a signature was how he would use bent note double stops or in other words, the ability to slide to the 5th note on the G-string and suddenly playing the same note on the B without interfering with the rhythm. Walker was also able to repeat the same figure whilst playing different parts of music something that created excitement and rhythmic tensions[6].

 His music style portrayed a smooth combination of the contemporary swing with the old county blues’ traditions making him to be regarded as the father of the blues. This style was largely influenced by the works of artists like Francis Blackwell, Lonnie Johnson and Leroy Carr.            Walker’s contribution to the emergence of rock and roll cannot be overstated. His work starting from 1947 took more of a jazz style than never before especially in his works such as ‘Inspiration Blues’, ‘Go back to the one you Love, I am Still in Love with You and T-Bone Shuffle. From this time he established an eleven piece band that helped to produce a number of recordings such as the ‘Hustle is on’.

He went jazzy properly when he teamed up with his nephew Barney Kassel, a jazz player in his song ‘Shuffling the Blues’. At this time the organization of his band resembled that of jazz band that is, guitar works and vocals in the front and at the center while at the back was the band doing nothing else but backing. “The importance of T-Bone Walker’s career and his influence on legions of Jazz, Rhythm and Blues, and Rock and Roll artists who followed him cannot be overstated. He created the archetype of the performer with a guitar fronting his own band” [7]            Unlike his blues contemporaries, Walker would hold his guitar differently that is in parallel to the floor of the stage and perpendicular to his body. His music styles influenced later artists such as Jimi Hendrix who borrowed Walker’s style of playing his electric guitar behind his neck but soon after this Walker stopped doing so.

Another artist who rocketed to fame due to walkers influence was Chuck Berry. This artist had borrowed much from Walker’s style but he altered the beats a little coming up with what came to be known as rock and roll thereby becoming its first player.            In what came to be the most popular masterpiece of his days, ‘the Stormy Monday’, Walker used unusual guitar chord line something that made his blues to be his signature. “Playing like T-Bone is a challenge – it takes a lot more than simply knowing your blues scale. A great ear and a lot of patience and hard work is required”[8]. His new invention of a modern blues guitar brought about a wholesome transformation of the popular American music. This influenced other artists as from thereon they would play their blues with that chord line. Before his death Walker acted as a link between blues artists of the younger generation and the pre was blues[9].

            Indeed, Aaron Thibeaux Walker was an iconic musical figure whose part he played in the blues scene cannot be easily erased from people’s minds and historical records. Perhaps due to the influence he got from his family in that his mother was a guitarist and that his step father was like a jack of all, Walker found himself taking after them but to take this a notch higher, he practiced alone and accompanied other great musical figures of the time to get acquainted well with music. He is remembered for introducing new styles in the blues; things that were only known in the classical blues tradition for example, the introduction of jazz style in blues where the guitar and the vocals would be in the front and at the center while the band would stay at the back. His ability to strike the ninth and sixth code harmoniously made his style to become a signature. He is also the first man to play electric guitar in blues something that inspired other music genres such as the rock and roll.Works cited:All about Jazz.

T-Bone Walker. 2007. Accessed at            http://www.allaboutjazz.

com/php/musician.php?id=11136Cross D. T-Bone Walker Blues Guitar Lesson.

2009 Available at             http://guitar.about.com/od/bluesguitar/ss/t_bone_walker_blues_guitar_lesson.htmDance O. Helen.

The handbook of Texas. Walker, Aaron Thibeaux (T-Bone) 2009. Available online at             http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/WW/fwaap.htmlHarper Johnny, T-Bone Walker: Blues Guitar Godfather II.

1995. Retrieved from             http://www.there1.

com/browse_articles.php?action=view_record&idnum=116T-Bone Walker Blues Festival. Aaron Thibeaux Walker (1910-1975) Accessed from             http://www.tbonewalkerbluesfestival.com/T-BoneWalkerBio.

htm[1] Dance O. Helen. The handbook of Texas. Walker, Aaron Thibeaux (T-Bone) 2009.              Available online at                 http://www.

tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/WW/fwaap.html[2] All about Jazz.

T-Bone Walker. 2007. Accessed at http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/musician.php?id=11136[3] Cross D. T-Bone Walker Blues Guitar Lesson.

2009 Available at                 http://guitar.about.com/od/bluesguitar/ss/t_bone_walker_blues_guitar_lesson.htm[4] All about Jazz. T-Bone Walker.

2007. Accessed at http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/musician.php?id=11136[5] Harper Johnny, T-Bone Walker: Blues Guitar Godfather II. 1995. Retrieved from   http://www.

there1.com/browse_articles.php?action=view_record&idnum=116[6] Ibid.[7] T-Bone Walker Blues Festival. Aaron Thibeaux Walker (1910-1975) Accessed from                http://www.

tbonewalkerbluesfestival.com/T-BoneWalkerBio.htm[8] Cross D. T-Bone Walker Blues Guitar Lesson. 2009 Available at                 http://guitar.about.

com/od/bluesguitar/ss/t_bone_walker_blues_guitar_lesson.htm[9] Harper Johnny, T-Bone Walker: Blues Guitar Godfather II. 1995. Retrieved from   http://www.there1.com/browse_articles.php?action=view_record&idnum=116 


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