Published on November 5th, 2012 | by Sam2
T-Bone Walker Blues
Today we are going to look at the guitarist who may be considered the ‘rosetta stone’ of the electric guitar. Just as Charlie Christian influenced many players to pick up the instrument and their styles, T-Bone Walker serves as a major root in the electric blues and therefore rock and roll, country, and R&B styles. We’re going to check out a few of his signature licks from the early recordings in his career.
T-Bone was one of the bridges from early electric jazz to blues. Most of his tunes either swung or were in 12/8. Many of his songs have a jump blues sound with horn sections playing riffs similar to Count Basie. The blues in this period are directly linked with the big band period that came right before it. When you extrapolate T-Bone’s style into the later rock styles the picture of all of these music styles sharing the same roots starts to emerge. It really starts with T-Bone Walker and Charlie Christian.
T-Bone’s Main Lick
If you listen to much of T-Bone’s playing you will hear this lick come up all the time. The concept is relatively simple, it’s based on the minor pentatonic but uses the 9th in the lick. Stevie Ray Vaughn used this device throughout his career as well. The first example is from T-Bone’s hit “Bobby Sox Blues” and is in Ab.
The tune, “T-Bone’s Shuffle” uses this lick again in many forms. He really bases the entire solo which is in the key of G on the lick, putting it in different places and using other notes to restructure it. This version happens in the 10th and 11th bars (going from the IV chord in the turnaround to the I chord). It’s very interesting the way he plays over the barline, resolving the lick in a place you wouldn’t normally hear the lick resolving. Another illustration of “form trumps harmony.”
This lick will take us back to “Bobby Sox Blues” again in Ab. Here T-Bone uses a simple idea in the minor pentatonic scale. The ending of the lick is very effective-a great short lick to add to your vocabulary asap.
Tuesday’s Just as Bad
We’re going to check out “Stormy Monday” for the final two licks. This one again uses mostly the minor pentatonic, but starts out replacing the 6th for the minor 7th. Again, the ending is very effective and reminiscent of Lick 3. This tune is in G.
The final lick is one that really fits “Stormy Monday” but I’m sure you can find other uses for it as well. This one happens as he’s leading into the IV chord in bar 5. The lick starts out with a tritone doublestop which then resolves up a half step, then back down. Most people will probably know this lick best from the Allman Brothers who stole it from Bobby “Blue” Bland, who of course adapted it from T-Bone Walker.
For more on learning the vocabulary of the blues, make sure to check out my eBook, Blues Language.