There is only one person in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame who got inducted beca…

Written by on May 13, 2018

There is only one person in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame who got inducted because of his harmonica playing. That person, Marion Walter Jacobs would have turned 88 years old today. You will probably know him better by his stage name, Little Walter. His playing was a revolutionary approach to the harmonica has had an impact on many future players. His virtuosity and musical innovations fundamentally altered many listeners’ expectations of what was possible on blues harmonica.

He was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008 in the category Sideman, and is the only artist to be inducted specifically as a harmonica player.

He had a #1 record on the Billboard R&B Chart with his song “Juke” and it is the only harmonica based song to ever be #1 one on that chart.

And his influence on Rock and Roll harp players is enormous.

Jacobs suffered from alcoholism and had a notoriously short temper, which in late 1950s led to violent altercations, minor scrapes with the law, and increasingly irresponsible behavior. This led to a decline in his fame and fortunes, beginning in the late 1950s. Nonetheless he toured Europe twice, in 1964 and 1967 (the long-circulated story that he toured the United Kingdom with the Rolling Stones in 1964 has been refuted by Keith Richards). Jacobs recorded and toured infrequently in the 1960s, playing mainly in and around Chicago.

A few months after returning from his second European tour, he was involved in a fight while taking a break from a performance at a nightclub on the South Side of Chicago. He sustained minor injuries in this altercation, but they aggravated the damage he had suffered in previous violent encounters, and he died in his sleep at the apartment of a girlfriend, at 209 E. 54th St., early the following morning, Feb. 15, 1968. The official cause of death stated on his death certificate was coronary thrombosis (a blood clot in the heart); evidence of external injuries was so insignificant that the police reported that his death was due to “unknown or natural causes”, and no external injuries were noted on the death certificate. He was only 37 years old when he died.

His body was buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery, in Evergreen Park, Illinois, on February 22, 1968. His grave remained unmarked until 1991, when fans Scott Dirks and Eomot Rasun had a marker designed and installed.

Happy Birthday Mr. Jacobs. Your music and talent has given us some much.

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