Top 10 T-Bone Walker Songs list presents some of the most influential T-Bone Walker Songs like “Stormy Monday,” “West Side Baby” and more. From Texas, Aaron Thibeaux Walker was raised in a musical household as his parents were both musicians. While growing up, he was taught how to play several instruments by his stepfather. Out of all them, it was the electric guitar that would ultimately serve as Waker’s musical trademark. He was born on May 28, 1910, and by the time he was fifteen years old was already performing at a professional level as a blues musician. The start of his musical influence came from Blind Lemon Jefferson, as he was a friend of his mother and stepfather that often came over to the house as a guest. After signing up with Columbia Records, Walker made his recording debut in 1929 as Oak Cliff T-Bone. Oak Cliff was the name of the community he lived in at the time while T-Bone simply used the “T” from Walker’s middle name, plus using “bone” as creative input. By the time he was twenty-five years old, he was a married man performing in various clubs and venues along Central Avenue, Los Angeles, California.
Charlie Glenn, the owner of Rhumboogie Cafe in Chicago, Illinois, recruited T-Bone Walker in 1942 to perform at his club. While there, he recorded for the Rhumboogie label, along with Marl Young’s Orchestra as a backup. He also performed at the Cavalcade of Jazz concert that was held on October 12, 1946, in Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field. He was part of the same roster that also featured Louis Armstrong, Slim Gaillard, Lionel Hampton, The Honeydrippers, and Jack McVea. On September 7, 1947, he performed at the concert again with another impressive roster. Returning with him were Slim Gaillard and The Honeydrippers. The rest of the lineup featured Toni Harper, Woody Herman, Johnny Otis, The Valdez Orchestra, and Sarah Vaughan.
From 1946 until 1948, T-Bone Walker was his most prolific while he was signed with Black & White Records. This is where his biggest hits were produced, including “Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday is Just as Bad).” The highlights of his career, aside from Cavalcade, included working with elite musicians such as Teddy Buckner, Lloyd Glenn, and Jack McVea. After his run with Black & White was over, he signed up with Imperial Records, then with Atlantic Records.
Starting in the 1960s, T-Bone Walker’s career showed signs of slowing down but it was also during this timeline some of his best albums such as 1968’s I Want a Little Girl, were released. In 1970, he released Good Feelin’ an album that was recognized in 1971 by the Grammy Awards for Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording. After suffering a stroke in 1974, Walker’s career slowed down again. On March 16, 1975, T-Bone Walker passed away at the age of sixty-four years old, leaving behind a wife and three children.
T-Bone Walker Legacy
Noted as a key influencer by B.B. King, Chuck Berry, and Jimi Hendrix as each of the guitar heroes credited T-Bone Walker as a guitar hero of their own. He, along with Louis Jordan, pioneered the big wave of electric guitars that forever made an impact on the music industry, regardless of genre. In 1952, a very young Steve Miller was taught how to play the guitar behind his back and also with his teeth by Walker himself.
In 1980, T-Bone Walker was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. In 1987, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. According to many fans and music critics, T-Bone Walker was regarded as one of the best R&B guitarists of all time. In total, there are eighteen studio albums to T-Walker’s credit. Very Rare was his final recording before complications from his pneumonia condition claimed his life in 1975, which was released in 1974.
Top 10 T-Bone Walker Songs
# 10 – I Got a Break, Baby
“I Got a Break, Baby” started off with T-Bone Walker’s electric guitar setting the tone of this jazzy blues number. It was recorded in 1942, via Capitol Records, as an artist who struggled to make ends meet before he finally got his big break. Perhaps as an autobiographical number, “I Got a Break, Baby” was a bluesy favorite that summed up the music scene in an iconic way. Although already making a name for himself as an elite performer, Walker’s talent as a powerful vocalist was just as notable as his ability to wow the crowd with his electric guitar.
#9 – Evenin’
While performing with a jazz band in 1945, T-Bone Walker’s woeful vocal performance behind “Evenin'” displayed a powerful example of the man’s musical talent as a lead singer. Of course, his soulful guitar solo earned the centerstage of this R&B number that also had an old-school jazzy feel to it. “Evening” was a 1945 performance that’s easily earned its place as a major fan favorite. The diversity behind Walker’s music, combined with his incredible performance on stage, deservedly earned him a strong fan following. Everywhere he went, he was among the top stars of the show.
#8 – Please Come Back to Me
Recorded and released in 1946, “Please Come Back to Me” was a powerfully performed bluesy number that demonstrated T-Bone Walker’s talent as a soulful vocalist. When accompanied by his electric guitar performance, this smoky plea of winning back his love interest’s heart was the kind of music that kept fans coming back for more. As America was recovering from the Second World War and the impact it made on society, Walker’s brand of R&B was among the biggest highlights during this era.
#7 – Long Skirt Baby Blues
Full of jazz, 1948’s “Long Skirt Baby Blues” featured T-Bone Walker and his electric guitar doing what they do best. This fun and jazzy number featured a fantastic collection of bass, drums, horns, and piano as Walker shared his feelings about his woman and her recent choice of sporting fashion that was on the frumpy side. According to the lyrics, this wasn’t how she dressed when he first met her and had since given him a cause for concern.
#6 – The Hustle is On
If you’re a true blues fan, “The Hustle is On” is worth the listen, especially if you agree that T-Bone Walker is an all-time great. His brand of blues was among the biggest influencers that spawned R&B to become a musical genre. It also served as the pioneering spirit that shaped rock and roll as we know it. Walker’s hustle as a performer rightfully earned him a place in the record books as one of the finest musicians in history. “The Hustle is On” was a 1950 release that featured Walker sharing his take on life as someone needing to hustle in order to make a living since all the good jobs were gone at the time.
#5 – T-Bone Shuffle
Recorded and released in 1955, “T-Bone Shuffle” became an iconic number that influenced the likes of Chuck Berry to pick up and learn the electric guitar. Berry’s track record as a performer got one of its starts from T-Bone Walker as he learned how to mimic Walker’s showmanship on the stage.
#4 – Bobby Sox Blues
“Bobby Sox Blues” became a number three hit on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart after it was released as a single in 1947. T-Bone Walker’s lyrical ballad about his girlfriend’s obsession with celebrities became his subject of discussion. Thanks to the genius performance of his electric guitar, it prominently played out the dramatics while the soft and sultry instruments turned this into a soulful R&B favorite.
#3 – West Side Baby
In 1948, “West Side Baby” became a number eight hit on the US Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Blues at its best, this slow-paced number earned its notoriety, thanks to T-Bone Walker’s bluesy guitar run. It was beautifully accompanied by the subdued drums, piano, and saxophone as Walker’s R&B talent as a balladeer shared the tale of his love interest and her West Side Chicago location.
#2 – Mean Old World
“Mean Old World” was a song that was performed with Les Hite and His Orchestra while T-Bone Walker was with the group from 1939 to 1940. In 1942, Walker first performed his version of this song in a West Coast-influenced blues style during his days with Capitol Records. This was the song that saw featured Walker first earning a name for himself as an electric guitar god that would inspire a long list of listeners to pick up and learn the instrument themselves. It was this version that won over the crowd as listeners fell in love with it.
#1 – Stormy Monday
1947’s “Stormy Monday” became so much more than a T-Bone Waker signature hit. Scores of elite recording artists credit this song as an inspirational favorite that they recorded during their own careers. The Allman Brothers Band, Bobbie “Blue” Bland, Lonnie Mack, and Jethro Tull are among the few who are in agreement this song is an influential cult classic.
“Stormy Monday” became a must-know number for blues musicians as it became one of the most popular blues standards of all time. This song featured T-Bone Walker as one of the earliest masters of the electric guitar as the chord line used in this tune made such a profound impression. Deliberately designed as a moody song, ” Stormy Monday” became a number five hit on what was called the US Billboard’s Most Played Juke Box Race Records.
This all-time fan favorite was inducted into the Blues Foundation Blues Hall of Fame as a Classic of Blues Recording – Single or Album Track in 1983. In 1991, the Grammy Hall of Fame inducted “Stormy Monday,” honoring it for its historical significance. In 1995, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included this song in its 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll category. The U.S. National Recording Preservation Board recognized “Stormy Monday” in 2007 for its cultural and historical significance, placing it in the Library of Congress National Recording Registry.
Top 10 T-Bone Walker Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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