Marion Walter Jacobs (May 1, 1930 – February 15, 1968), known as Little Walter, was an American blues musician, singer, and songwriter, whose revolutionary approach to the harmonica and impact on succeeding generations earned comparisons for him to such seminal artists as Django Reinhardt, Charlie Parker and Jimi Hendrix. 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, the only artist to be inducted specifically as a harmonica player.
Jacobs was born in 1930 (recently uncovered census data suggests he may have been born earlier, possibly as early as 1925) in Marksville, Louisiana, and raised in Rapides Parish, Louisiana, where he learned to play the harmonica. He quit school and by the age of 12 had left rural Louisiana and travelled, working odd jobs and busking on the streets of New Orleans; Memphis; Helena and West Helena, Arkansas; and St. Louis. He honed his musical skills on harmonica and guitar performing with older bluesmen, including Sonny Boy Williamson II, Sunnyland Slim, Honeyboy Edwards and others.
Arriving in Chicago in 1945, he occasionally found work as a guitarist but garnered more attention for his already highly developed harmonica playing. According to Chicago bluesman Floyd Jones, Little Walter’s first recording was an unreleased demo recorded soon after he arrived in Chicago, on which Walter played guitar backing Jones.