“Walking Blues” is a blues standard written by Son House, but made famous by Robert Johnson in 1936 and reaching popularity after its reissue on the LP King of the Delta Blues Singers in 1961.
The song incorporates the lessons Johnson absorbed from Son House. It takes its first verse and title from one of House’s favourite verses. The melody and text structure are those of House’s “My Black Mama”.
“Walkin’ Blues” was not a commercial success when issued into the Black race record market. Of this and other recordings in the style of Son House, Wald comments:
- In the commercial music market of 1936, this was archaic, countrified material, and from a professional point of view it is a bit surprising that Johnson recorded any of it. This was the end of the session, though, and since he clearly enjoyed this sort of music, the producers may have figured that such songs were good enough for B-sides, and they might even sell a few extra records to some old folks.
However, these songs were received with great enthusiasm by a small White group of jazz record collectors and critics. Most notably, John Hammond, chose “Walkin’ Blues” and “Preachin’ Blues” as the records to be played at his 1938 From Spirituals to Swing concert, such was his disappointment that Johnson himself could not appear. (Johnson had died a few months earlier.) The 1961 reissue King of the Delta Blues Singers was marketed to White enthusiasts. According to most sources, John Hammond was involved in the production and the selection of tracks. It included the two House-style songs and a song with House-style guitar figures “Cross Road Blues”, and excluded songs in the commercial style of the late 1930s. Notable exclusions were Johnson’s one commercial hit Terraplane Blues and songs which he passed on to the main stream of blues recording “Sweet Home Chicago” and “Dust My Broom”. This issue led to Johnson’s enormous popularity and perceived importance in the history of the Blues. Walkin’ Blues became a standard covered by several commercially successful artists.
recordings== Artists who have recorded Walking Blues include Cee Lo Green, Muddy Waters, Colin James, Paul Butterfield, Johnny Cash, Hot Tuna, The Grateful Dead, Rory Gallagher, John Kay, R.L. Burnside, Jon Lord, Eric Clapton, Todd Rundgren, Hindu Love Gods, Ash Grunwald, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Joe Bonamassa, Peter Green Splinter Group, Roy Rogers, Bonnie Raitt and The Toy Dolls.