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Big Walter & His Thunderbirds

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Big Walter

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Biography

Born Walter Travis Price, 2 August 1914, Gonzales, Texas

Now aged 93, singer / pianist Big Walter Price must be one of the oldest blues artists alive. Though he never had a national hit, he is often referred to as a blues legend. Walter himself does not see himself exclusively as a blues singer, he considers himself more versatile than that.

Walter Price was brought up by his aunt, who would beat him when he didn’t pick enough cotton. He describes his childhood in Gonzales as “horrible”. Around the age of eleven, he moved to San Antonio and has lived in big cities ever since. “I never have fooled with cotton no more”. He received very little schooling (“first grade is as far as I ever went”) and worked at all sorts of low-paying jobs until he got involved in music in the 1940s. That’s when he began writing songs (all of Price’s recordings are his own compositions) and learned to play the piano.

Price was already in his early forties when he made his first records, for Bob Tanner’s TNT label in San Antonio. Three TNT singles were released in 1955, the first of which, “Calling Margie”, sold quite well locally. They were credited to “Big Walter and his Thunderbirds”. Soon Price would call himself “Big Walter the Thunderbird”. Later in 1955, Walter moved to Houston and joined his friend Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown at Don Robey’s Peacock label. Of the five Peacock singles that were issued in 1956-57, the first two are the best known and also the strongest sellers.

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