by Marty Weil @ChiBluesHistory
Chuck Berry said, “All the things people see me do on stage I got from T-Bone Walker.” Elected to the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, T-Bone Walker was a composer, arranger, and blues artist extraordinaire. Walker, the godfather of modern electric guitar players, was the reportedly the first blues artist to plug in his guitar and go electric.
Chuck Berry wasn’t the only legendary performer to be inspired by T-Bone Walker. He was also a significant influence on Albert Collins, Buddy Guy, Freddy King, and B.B. King. The first time B.B. King heard an electric guitar it was T-Bone’s, blaring from a Victrola. While B.B. first heard T-Bone on record, those lucky enough to live in Chicago during WWII could catch him live at the Rhumboogie. The Rhumboogie served as T-Bone Walker’s home away from home during a good portion of the Second World War. Opened in 1942, the club was owned by Charlie Glen and boxing champion Joe Louis.
After his residency at Rhumboogie, T-Bone enjoyed a celebrated stint at Imperial Records that was studded with classic recordings. One memorable track, “Vida Lee”, was named for Walker’s wife. Vida Lee and T-Bone Walker were married in 1935 and had three children together. Walker’s long, important career wound down after he suffered a stroke in 1974. He died the following year at the age of 64. While T-Bone Walker didn’t invent electricity, his influence on the blues can’t be overstated.
Marty Weil is the editor of @CHIBLUESHISTORY on Twitter. Marty is a blues researcher, educator, and social media influencer.