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You know I was never interested in making records and I always preferred to live a quiet life; just unknown in my basement - Kokomo Arnold, in Paul Oliver's Blues Off the Record

Author Topic: Wade Walton  (Read 2199 times)

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mississippijohnhurt1928

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Wade Walton
« on: August 22, 2007, 10:08:15 AM »
I've heard two songs recorded by Wade Walton including his wonderful rendition of "Rock Me, Mama".

I don't know anything about Wade, what can you all tell me?

Thanks,
Calvin

Offline Johnm

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Re: Wade Walton
« Reply #1 on: August 22, 2007, 10:23:12 AM »
Hi Calvin,
I know others can fill you in more completely on Wade Walton, but from my recollection, he was a barber, from Clarksdale, Mississippi, I believe, who had an album released on Prestige Bluesville in the 1960s that, I think was recorded by Paul Oliver on the same trip in which Robert Curtis Smith's great Bluesville album was recorded.  I think Wade Walton's barber shop was a gathering place for Clarksdale's local Blues players and aficionados to gather to hear and play Blues, much as Archie Edwards's barber shop functioned in Washington, D.C.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Wade Walton
« Reply #2 on: August 22, 2007, 10:34:05 AM »
Born Lombardy, Ms, 10 Oct 1923. Died St. Louis, 10 Jan 2000.

First recorded by Chris Strachwitz Clarksdale 17 & 24 July 1960 during the Oliver trip, the majority of which has never been issued (only one song in fact). Oliver interviewed him, portions of which appear in Conversation With The Blues. Two years later David Mangurian recorded him which resulted in an album released by Bluesville.

Several obituaries published. I'll see if there's one that  is concise enough to post here.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Wade Walton
« Reply #3 on: August 22, 2007, 10:57:44 AM »
The obituaries, such as they are, seem to be short but the Routledge Encyclopedia Of The Blues (Vol. 2 page 1048) has a fair summation of Walton's life and times most of which drawn from what he told Oliver or Mangurian:

Barber, singer, and storyteller, Wade Walton grew up in Goldfield, Mississippi, a small town five miles from Parchman Penitentiary. As a youth he entertained at house parties and dabbled in vaudeville, occasionally attending field trips to sing for the prisoners. In 1940 he left for barber college in Memphis and lived for a time in Chicago before settling in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He presided over the Big Six barbershop, playing guitar as time warranted or singing songs while beating time on a razor strop. Walton's work brought him into contact with the local musicians of the day, and the unique society of the barbershop served as ear to his stories as well as his impromptu numbers.

One of the musicians who happened into the Big Six was Ike Turner. He and Walton became friends? what Walton would later insist was mentoring in 1944 and were for a time bandmates in Turner's Kings of Rhythm. Steady gigs, including a spot at Jake's in St. Louis, gave Turner a fever for success, but Walton felt insecure about leaving Clarksdale. Preferring the settled life, Walton bowed out of the Kings in 1946 but continued to enliven the air of various barbershops for the next twenty years.     

In the ensuing decades, Walton's reputation as a civic treasure grew steadily; he opened two shops in Clarksdale, in 1960 and in 1972, and recorded two albums in the early 1960s. As Clarksdale's unofficial ambassador of the blues, he has played host to blues enthusiasts from around the world, appeared in blues documentaries, and played countless area festivals and civic events.

[I think the reference to "two albums" should read "two sessions" as there has only ever been one LP release. At the time of his opening his second barbershop there was renewed interest in him and Blues Unlimited ran a  double-page photo spread of Walton in his latest establishment. BH]

mississippijohnhurt1928

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Re: Wade Walton
« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2007, 11:31:37 AM »
Thanks all, that's helpful.

Offline Chezztone

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Re: Wade Walton
« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2007, 11:50:42 AM »
Rent, buy or borrow the movie Deep Blues -- it has some nice footage of Walton. His suit alone is worth seeing the movie for! (It has lots and lots of other great stuff too, really a must-see or a must-see-again.) Also if you can track down a copy of Coahoma the Blues, on Rooster, you'll hear a couple great Walton tracks -- one very personal song in which he laments having to move his barbershop from its longtime location on 4th St, and another in which he keeps time with his razor and strop, to Big Jack Johnson's guitar playing. That's the kind of stuff that went on in his shop. Besides good haircutting! When poet Allen Ginsburg visited Mississippi, the first place he insisted on going to was Walton's shop. He had heard about the blues-singing barber and wanted to get a haircut there. Shame no one recorded that visit.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Wade Walton
« Reply #6 on: August 22, 2007, 12:09:33 PM »
When poet Allen Ginsburg visited Mississippi, the first place he insisted on going to was Walton's shop. He had heard about the blues-singing barber and wanted to get a haircut there. Shame no one recorded that visit.

Don't you mean lucky no one recorded it?  :P


mississippijohnhurt1928

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Re: Wade Walton
« Reply #7 on: August 22, 2007, 01:42:56 PM »
Rent, buy or borrow the movie Deep Blues -- it has some nice footage of Walton. His suit alone is worth seeing the movie for! (It has lots and lots of other great stuff too, really a must-see or a must-see-again.) Also if you can track down a copy of Coahoma the Blues, on Rooster, you'll hear a couple great Walton tracks -- one very personal song in which he laments having to move his barbershop from its longtime location on 4th St, and another in which he keeps time with his razor and strop, to Big Jack Johnson's guitar playing. That's the kind of stuff that went on in his shop. Besides good haircutting! When poet Allen Ginsburg visited Mississippi, the first place he insisted on going to was Walton's shop. He had heard about the blues-singing barber and wanted to get a haircut there. Shame no one recorded that visit.

What other musicians appear in that movie?

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Wade Walton
« Reply #8 on: August 22, 2007, 11:27:05 PM »
What other musicians appear in that movie?
See the website of the guy who made the film. I think I'm correct in saying that its "premier" was on British TV (BBC2) I guess because "hosted" by pop singer Dave Stewart. But I'm happy to be corrected in this.

http://www.robertmugge.com/films.htm

There was an Atlantic CD issued too.

Offline Chezztone

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Re: Wade Walton
« Reply #9 on: August 24, 2007, 03:10:45 PM »
I believe it was made for general release in movie theaters, not for the BBC. Stewart is in the beginning of it (great scene of him getting a guitar lesson from RL Burnside) but the actual host is the late Robert Palmer, who also wrote the book Deep Blues. Although they have the same title, the film is not an adaptation of the book. The book is a history of Delta blues; the film is a documentary of then-current (1990) Mississippi blues. Mugge also has directed many other music-related documentaries, including two other blues-related ones, Hellhounds on my Trail and Last of the Mississippi Jukes. All are well worth checking out. 

Offline Stefan Wirz

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Re: Wade Walton
« Reply #10 on: June 07, 2011, 02:39:40 AM »
Wade Walton discography online !
Anybody's able to provide track list [or even cover pics] of the 1990 Rooster cassette "Clarksdale, Mississippi: Coahoma the Blues" ?!?

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Wade Walton
« Reply #11 on: June 07, 2011, 03:14:31 AM »
Just to cover all bases I've emailed a link to Jim O'Neal.

Offline Stefan Wirz

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Re: Wade Walton
« Reply #12 on: June 07, 2011, 03:25:09 AM »
Just to cover all bases I've emailed a link to Jim O'Neal.

... that was quick - thanks a lot, Bunker (I had that in mind, but the early bird ... ;-)

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Wade Walton
« Reply #13 on: June 07, 2011, 03:51:45 AM »
He's such a busy person with so many commitments it quite likely that thiose hereabouts will come up with the info ahead of him.

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