Thursday, April 1, 2010
Johnny "Big Moose" WALKER - Swear To Tell The Truth 1994
In 1960s Chicago he spent time with fellow pianists Sunnyland Slim and Johnny Jones and toured with Otis Rush and Muddy Waters playing bass - a skill he had picked up while with Ike Turner and Howlin' Wolf. He then rejoined Earl Hooker, playing on his 1969 Bluesway album Don't have to Worry. Bluesway producer Ed Michel also featured him on his own album, Rambling Woman and hired him for the singer Andrew "Big Voice" Odom's Farther on Down the Road as well as a joint effort by John Lee Hooker and Earl Hooker If You Miss 'Im, I Got 'Im. Recalling the session with Earl and John Lee Hooker Mr. Michel commented "Walker was to that band what Otis Spann was to Muddy Waters."
As it happened, Moose and Otis Spann were good friends who often hung out together and Moose's laid-back singing is sometimes reminiscent of Spann's smoky manner. One night during a Muddy Waters tour, the two men found themselves in a hotel lobby with a couple of grand pianos and played duets for several hours.
"We was just drinkin' and playin'," Moose recalled. "When we finally looked up, it was about eight o'clock in the morning and there was about 300 people standin' there." The two planned a duet album which Moose said "woulda went down in history 'cause we play the same thing. We know how to turn it around." Otis died in 1970 before the project came to fruition.
In the 1970s and '80s Moose played with the singer-guitarists JImmy Dawkins, Mighty Joe Young, Son Seals and Johnny Littlejohn, whom he played with on and off for almost fifty years, the two having known each other since their childhoods in Mississippi. "I never wanted to be a bandleader or have a big name," he claimed. "I just like to make it sound good if I can."
He was featured in Alligator Records' showcase of a series of albums titled Living Chicago Blues and made further albums of his own in the US and Europe, often featuring his favourite compositions Footrace and Moose on the Loose. Johnny toured Europe with the 1979 Chicago Blues Festival and travelled to Canada and New Zealand, settling in to residency in Montreal for several years, playing and living the party life.
With his long gray hair, white beard and exuberant manner he was an arresting figure and Maori audiences particularly took to him. Back in Chicago he could be found playing often solo or with his regular drummer Chris Moss at the North Side blues club, Kingston Mines or smaller venues on the South Side such as Palmer's Lounge or the Soul Queen Restaurant.
Moose made his first music on an old church organ. He played guitar in the cotton fields, took tuba lessons and once had visions of becoming a famous blues vibes player. During the ‘50s he became known as a pianist and bass player as he roamed through the Delta and beyond. He played with many local Greenville bluesmen, joined Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm in Clarksdale and sat in with the King Biscuit Boys in Helena, Arkansas. He worked the Mississippi juke joints with Elmore James and Sonny Boy Williamson. He switched to guitar for gigs with Boyd Gilmore in Arkansas and with pianist Eddie Snow in Cairo, Illinois. He lived with bandleader Tuff Green in Memphis and with pianist Pinetop Perkins in East St. Louis. He got to do some shows with Lowell Fulson when Fulson’s bandleader, Choker Campbell, hired Moose to drive the group around the country. He traveled even more extensively with the roadmaster of the blues, Earl Hooker. During the drunken party in St. Louis, he won a $50 dollar bet with Ike Turner by jumping off the third floor of a building. (It was just enough to cover the hospital bill.) And he joined the army and went to Korea.
A series of strokes halted Walker's musicalactivities from 1992.
Johnny "Big Moose" WALKER- Piano, Vocals,
Lefty Dizz- Guitar; Harmonica Hinds - Harmonica,
Ike Anderson- Bass,
Jeff Taylor- Drums.
01. Rambling Woman 4:24
02. Burying Ground 6:55
03. Swear To Tell The Truth 3.50
04. Drink Too Much 4:22
05. Lord Have Mercy 6:08
06. Every Night 5:58
07. Anna Lee 6:41