T-Bone walker was born Aaron Thibeaux Walker in Linden, Texas, on the 28th of May, 1910.
T-Bone was of African American and Cherokee descent and his parents where both musicians. At a young age his stepfather taught him to play the guitar, ukulele, banjo, mandolin, and piano.
T-Bone’s parents where family friends with Blind Lemon Jefferson and by the age of 15, T-Bone was a professional musician on the blues circuit, touring as Blind Lemon Jefferson’s protege.
He made his first recoding in 1929 with Columbia Records where he was given the performing name of “Oak Cliff T-Bone”, Oak cliff was where he was living during the time and T-bone was a variation of his indigenous middle name.
He later had his performing name shortened to “T-Bone” and added his last name “Walker”.
T-Bone recorded most of his well known songs during his period with Black & White records from 1946 to 1948, this included such songs as “Bobby Sox Blues” which hit number 3 on the R&B charts, “West Side Baby” that made number 8 and the iconic blues standard “Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just As Bad)”.
T-Bone walker was renowned as much for his charismatic live performances as he was his guitar playing and in most cases, is considered solely responsible for introducing stage moves into the guitar world.
Playing the guitar with his teeth, playing behind his head while doing the splits and the “Duck Walk” where all trade mark moves of a T-Bone Walker live performance.
Techniques And Musical Concepts They Popularised
T-Bone Walker is considered among electric guitar players and musicologists to be one of the most influential electric guitar players of all time. He is largely considered to be the pioneer and innovator of the guitar playing genre “Jump Blues” and a prominent pioneer of electric guitar blues.
A lot T-Bone’s solo’s revolved around the 1st position minor pentatonic, with classic blues licks and phrases from this well known position. Though this position is well known today as well as the licks played within it, during T-Bone Walker’s time the playing within this position that he executed so effortlessly was quite new. T-Bone is considered by many blues and rock guitar players, as well as musicologists to have introduced these now well known licks and phrases to the rest of the guitar playing world.
Another of T-Bone’s immortal contributions to the electric guitar playing world was his revolutionary use of string bends. The bending licks and phrases T-Bone played had never quite been heard before, and the way he quickly and effortlessly transitioned between these bends was also a first for the time.
T-Bone was also renowned for his musical mixture of major and minor pentatonic, creating the mixed blues runs that have become must know standard licks for the generations of rock and blues electric guitar players to follow.
Notable Rock Guitar Players They Influenced
T-Bone Walker’s direct and indirect influence is still present within the electric guitar playing world today, you would be hard pressed to find a historical guitar playing figure or modern rock or blues guitar player who hasn’t felt some kind of influence by T-Bone Walker.
Not only did T-Bone contribute musically to the rock and blues electric guitar playing world, but he also established a sense of showmanship that has since become the standard for rock performances.
B.B. King sited T-Bone Walker as his inspiration to pick up the electric guitar, while Chuck Berry was quoted as saying T-Bone was one of his main musical influences as well as performing influences, Chuck would often pay homage to T-Bone by imitated T-Bone’s stage moves.
Another prominent rock guitar figure who was profoundly influenced by T-Bone Walker’s stage moves and performances was Jimi Hendrix. Such T-Bone Walker stage moves as playing guitar behind his head and back, and playing with his teeth all become well known stage moves within Jimi Hendrix‘s live performances.
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