Big Walter HortonOn 06/04/1921: Big Walter Horton was born in Horn Lake, Mississippi. His birth name was Walter Horton. By the time he was 5, Horton was playing the harmonica. In his early teens, he lived in Memphis, Tennessee. He claimed that he recorded in Memphis in the late 1920s with the Memphis Jug Band, however, there is no documentation of them.
Horton lived on a small income and endured racial discrimination.
In the 1930s, Horton played with various Blues acts in the Mississippi Delta.
In 1939, Horton made his first recordings (if the Memphis Jug recordings are believed to be false) backing Little Buddy Doyle for Okeh Records and Vocalion Records.
In the 1940s, Horton would stop playing the harp because of poor health and worked mostly outside the music business.
In the early 1950s, Horton began playing music again. He was one of the first people to record for Sam Phillips at Sun Records, Memphis. At Sun Records, he accompanied Phineas Newborn Jr, who would later gain fame as a jazz pianist. Horton would record an instrumental track around the time called "Easy" based on Ivory Joe Hunter's song "I Almost Lost My Mind". He would be part of the Chicago blues scene.
In 1952, Junior Wells left the Muddy Waters band. Horton replaced him for one session in January 1953.
In the 1960s, Horton was still active in the Chicago blues scene. He was given the nickname Mumbles and Shakey because of the way he would move his head when playing the harmonica. He would be the sideman for Taylor, Shines, Johnny Young, Sunnyland Slim and Willie Dixon amongst others.
In 1968, Horton recorded the album "Southern Comfort" with Martin Stone whilst touring in the UK.
In the 1970s, he performed at various blues and folk festivals in the US and Europe. Often he would go on tour with Dixon's Chicago All-Stars. He would also perform on tracks by Fleetwood Mac and Johnny Winter.
In 1972, Horton and Carey Bell released the album "Big Walter Horton and Carey Bell" with Alligator Records.
In the late 1970s, Horton toured the US with Homesick James Williamson, Guido Sinclair, Eddie Taylor, Richard Molina, Bradley Pierce Smith and Paul Nebenzahl. Horton would also perform on National Public Radio broadcasts.
Horton would work at various blues festivals and often performed at the Maxwell Street market in Chicago.
In 1977, Horton played on the Muddy Waters album "I'm Ready" which was produced by Johnny Winter. He would also record for Blind Pig Records during that period.
In 1980, Horton accompanied John Lee Hooker in the film "The Blues Brothers". That year, was also the year that Horton would make his final recordings.
On 08/12/1981, Horton died of heart failure in Chicago.
In 1982, Horton was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.