All About Jazz

Home » Musicians » Johnny Big Moose Walker

Johnny Big Moose Walker

Johnny Walker--Big Moose, Busy Head, Moose John, J. W. Walker--by whatever name he was called him, he was Chicago’s irrepressible wild man of blues piano. He wore a splendid smile and long, wavy hair; in his briefcase he carried a gorilla mask and a “Big Moose” jersey. Just as musicians and audiences enjoyed Moose’s antics, they also admired the exuberant, two-fisted blues he played. He’s worked alongside the best in the business and rambled from coast to coast.

John Mayon Walker’s story was colorful from the start. He was born June 27, 1927, in Stoneville, Mississippi, but the way Moose told it, “I was really born in a graveyard, playing with the tombstones.” Indian blood and long flowing hair ran in the family. He picked up the nickname Moose as a youngster hanging around the pool hall in Greenville, Mississippi. “I wore my hair so long maybe I looked like a moose, I don’t know. I asked the guys, ‘Why you call me Moose?’ They said, ‘Well, that’s the only thing that fit for you.’”

Moose made his first music on an old church organ. He played guitar in the cotton fields, took tuba lessons and once had visions of becoming a famous blues vibes player. During the ‘50s he became known as a pianist and bass player as he roamed through the Delta and beyond. He played with many local Greenville bluesmen, joined Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm in Clarksdale and sat in with the King Biscuit Boys in Helena, Arkansas. He worked the Mississippi juke joints with Elmore James and Sonny Boy Williamson. He switched to guitar for gigs with Boyd Gilmore in Arkansas and with pianist Eddie Snow in Cairo, Illinois. He lived with bandleader Tuff Green in Memphis and with pianist Pinetop Perkins in East St. Louis. He got to do some shows with Lowell Fulson when Fulson’s bandleader, Choker Campbell, hired Moose to drive the group around the country. He traveled even more extensively with the roadmaster of the blues, Earl Hooker. During the drunken party in St. Louis, he won a $50 dollar bet with Ike Turner by jumping off the third floor of a building. (It was just enough to cover the hospital bill.) And he joined the army and went to Korea.

Read more





B.B. King
guitar, electric
Bobby Blue Bland
voice / vocals
Charles Brown
voice / vocals
Albert Collins
guitar, electric
Jimmy Witherspoon
voice / vocals
Jimmy Reed
guitar, electric
Earl Hooker
guitar, slide
Guitar Slim
guitar, electric
Fenton Robinson
guitar, electric
Shemekia Copeland
voice / vocals
Ronnie Earl
guitar, electric
Tampa Red
guitar, slide

Shop Amazon

All About Jazz needs your support

All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded albums and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, limited reopenings and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary step that will help musicians and venues now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the sticky footer ad). Thank you!

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.