Blind Willie Walker

b. April 1896 in Greenville County, SC, d. March 4, 1933 in Greenville, SC, early blues guitarist and singer, who played the Piedmont blues style. He was described by blues musicians such as Reverend Gary Davis and Pink Anderson as an outstanding guitarist. Josh White called him the best guitarist he had ever heard, even better than Blind Blake: "Blake was quick, but Walker was like Art Tatum." In his performances, he was often accompanied by guitarist Sam Brooks. Blind from birth, Walker worked only as a musician, and was playing guitar in a string band with Rev. Gary Davis by 1911. Josh White said that ' Blind Blake was fast but Walker was like Art Tatum.' This is no exaggeration, as Walker's issued 1930 recordings, especially the two takes of 'South Carolina Rag', ably confirm. He was a strong singer, but it is his guitar that immediately astonishes: lightning-fast but impeccably clear (and admirably accompanied by Sam Brooks). At least some of Walker's playing appears to be a transfer to the guitar of mandolin figurations. It has been speculated that on 'Dupree Blues' he flatpicks the bass strings and simultaneously fingerpicks the treble; certainly his abilities were held in awe by former associates even 40 years after his death. Blind Willie Walker died in Greenville in 1933, aged about 36, of congenital syphilis, which may have been the reason for his blindness. On his death certificate he was listed as being a professional musician.