Joe Louis Walker is a true road veteran. Born on Christmas Day 1949 the young Walker grew up listening to his parents’ collection of 78s, which included albums by Amos Milburn, B.B. King, and Howlin’ Wolf, among others. This early influence led to his taking up the guitar at age fourteen. By 16 he had left home ending up in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, rooming with guitarist Mike Bloomfield. Through Bloomfield (the influential guitarist with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band), Walker was exposed to some of the legends of both rock and blues at that time.
“He opened my eyes to a lot of stuff, a lot of guitar styles,” Walker says of Bloomfield. During this time Walker played with people like Steve Miller, Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Earl Hooker, and Magic Sam.
“I was opening up for people like Freddie King, John Lee Hooker, and Muddy Waters,” he remembers. Other local bluesmen Walker befriended included Lowell Fulson, one of the architects of the California blues sound and the legendary slide guitarist Fred McDowell, a major influence on Walker’s style.
The fast life of the late ‘60s finally got to Walker, however, and by 1975 he was burned out and in desperate need of a change. Heading in a totally new direction, he spent the next ten years singing with a gospel group, the Spiritual Corinthians, and was able to get his life back on track as well as gain more valuable musical experience. That gospel influence continues to echo in Walker’s songwriting and singing to this day.
“I like to keep my feet in gospel because it’s pure,” say Walker. In 1985 at a performance at the New Orleans’ Jazz and Heritage Festival with the Spiritual Corinthians, Joe heard the blues muse once again. Upon his return to San Francisco, he formed The Bosstalkers and in 1986 released his first album, Cold is the Night.
Since that time, he has been playing the blues with a dedication that is second to none. Constant touring and widespread acclaim followed with Walker winning several prestigious W.C. Handy Awards for Contemporary Male Artist of the Year (1988 and 1991) and Band of the Year (1996) with his group, Joe Louis Walker & The Bosstalkers. He has also released over ten albums on Hightone and Verve during the past thirteen years.
Joe Louis Walker always puts on a brilliant display of traditional blues, funk, R&B and rock-tinged blues, all with a soulful quality that draws on Walker’s rich blues and gospel background. Through his years of constant touring he has honed his considerable blues guitar skills to a fine point that strikes right at the heart of his listeners and Walker’s slide guitar playing is a sight to behold. Joe Louis Walker is simply one of the most versatile, exciting and innovative blues guitarists performing today.