Joe Louis Walker could have easily ended up like several of his friends …
Passed on to that musical graveyard in the sky. A place which houses so many of not only his contemporaries – some of his closest pals. Jimi Hendrix and Mike Bloomfield to name but two. Musicians who – according to Joe, were tempted by the excesses of the music business and youth.
“No doubt about it …” States the sixty-four year old student of the Blues. ” If I had gained stardom and success when I was a younger man, I would not be speaking to you right now. People forget the fact that when I talk about guys like Mike, Jimi and Stevie – I lost my friends man. I lost people who were close to me. It is a painful thing to lose someone we love.”
For those keeping track at home – Mike is the legendary Mike Bloomfield. A man who Joe lived with for several years. A man whose demons would not allow him to grow up – or old. Bloomfield succumbed to a heroin overdose in 1981. An unfortunate ( or fortunate for Joe) event which momentarily displaced Walker’s career as one of the Blues’ most talented guitar players.
Walker departed the Blues scene as quick as he had entered.
Enrolling in San Francisco State University, a place where Walker achieved degrees in Music and English. Truth be told – Walker enrolled in a classroom to further his education and to further his longevity …
“It was not so much Mike’s death ( that was part of it), it was to get away from the whole music business and what comes with it.” Says Joe. ” There’s a lot of dangerous stuff in there and it has destroyed many people. It is the type of business which can show a person’s real character. I always say – it’s not how you handle success, the times when you are on top. It is how you handle falling and starting again. That’s what shows true character.”
” Look at Jimi ( Hendrix) … He was a gentle soul with so much character. If he had surrounded himself with the right people, people who cared about him – he would still be here. Jimi had such a gentle soul and that is one thing which people don’t realize about him. A general misconception is that his best songs are full of fire. The truth is Jimi’s strength was in writing ballads. That’s where his talent was and it is a shame that many people don’t get that. Of course – that’s the fault of the business side which pumped songs like ‘Foxy Lady‘ and ‘ Purple Haze‘”
Another guy whose reputation remains flawed is Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones. A man ( along with Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts ) who Joe has forged a friendship with over the years. A guitar player who Walker believes is the only man in music who has stayed true to himself. A guitar play who throws no punches …
“Keith is one smart guy!” Explains Joe.” He is one of the most well read people in the business. One of the most well read people period. Have you seen the Stones’ shows when Keith does his part …?” Asks Walker. “The f*cking place goes nuts! Every time! You know why that is? Because people recognize who Keith is and what he has done. I mean that guy cannot lie. He lives and breathes music. He won’t lie about anything! You want the truth about Mick Jagger? Ask Keith. You want the truth about the Blues? Ask Keith. If you ask any musician from any type of music, a musician who really knows his stuff – they will tell you, their ain’t no Motherf*cker more true to music than Keith.”
He goes on …
” He (Keith) and the rest of the Stones could easily play a lot harder stuff. Keith has always been capable of playing leads – good leads. That’s the beauty of the Stones – they never put the instruments ahead of the songwriting. The songs were the most important element and still are. There is a reason why they have lasted fifty years. The Beatles – same thing. Their music is just as popular today as when they were ‘four brothers.’ The songs came first man ….”
Walker admits it is painful to watch The Beatles’ film; ‘Let it Be’. Joe thinks the lads from Liverpool were just becoming a great band when they went their separate ways. Directions which contained many factors including Lennon’s hatred of record companies and the music business.
” When you see them playing on the roof – their final concert …” Explains Walker. “You can see the smiles – the general happiness. Don’t forget, for years they did not play live and I think they lost the joy that comes from that. On the roof, they gained that back. John and the rest of the boys were supposedly talking about doing another gig after that. Unfortunately it did not happen. Imagine where they would have gone.”
Joe concludes it was all about the simplicity. Especially for John Lennon …
“Look at his last album …( Double Fantasy)” Says Walker. “Three and four chords. Take away the production and that’s what it is. That’s what is always was with The Beatles. Simple. A lot of reason for their success was their success in the studio. Nobody mastered the studio like the Beatles and a lot of that goes to the Producer (George Martin). The Stones and The Beatles kept it simple …”
Walker also laughs when he hears young guys today ( musicians) complain of little details. Details that himself and guys like B.B. King and Buddy Guy – did not even have to deal with …
” Young bands today will get on stage and complain they cannot hear their monitors. Are you f*ckin’ joking …?” He laughs. ” The Beatles played at Shea Stadium without any monitors. They couldn’t hear a damn thing! Anything! The Stones – same thing at the Cow Palace in my hometown ( San Francisco). You can’t hear the monitors …? Baby – that’s the least of your problems …..”
Please stay tuned for Part Two
Joe Louis Walker is performing at L’Astral in Montreal on Friday night
- ‘All Is By My Side,’ TIFF: Jimi Hendrix Film Fails Using Women, Not Music, To De-Mystify Legend (huffingtonpost.ca)
- “Beatles vs. Stones”: What fueled rock’s greatest rivalry (salon.com)
- ‘How I helped to make Jimi Hendrix a rock’n’roll star’ (theguardian.com)
- STILL REIGNING, STILL DREAMING: Jimi Hendrix Producer Eddie Kramer On The Making Of A Legend (rpmlifeinanalog.com)
- Celebrity photographer Harry Goodwin dies aged 89 (manchestereveningnews.co.uk)
- Get a Sneak Peak of ‘Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train A Comin’ (rollingstone.com)