NEW ORLEANS – Singer-guitarist Walter “Wolfman” Washington, a mainstay on the New Orleans blues and soul scene for 60 years, died Dec. 22. He was 79.
Funeral services are scheduled for Jan. 4. at 2 p.m. CST at Jacob Schoen & Son Funeral Home, according to The Associated Press. A benefit concert to help with medical and funeral expenses is planned for Jan. 8 at the Tipitina’s music venue in New Orleans.
Washington, known for his soulful voice, crisp guitar lines and toothy grin, fronted the Roadmasters, a New Orleans bar band, NOLA.com reported.
The singer would punctuate numbers with his trademark howl, according to the website.
A self-taught guitarist, Washington sang in the choir of the New Home Missionary Baptist Church in New Orleans as a youth. He reportedly earned his nickname after challenging other guitarists, a tactic known as “wolfing,” NOLA.com reported.
He turned professional when he was 19, backing Johnny “The Tan Canary” Adams, Lee Dorsey, David Lastie Sr. and Irma Thomas, according to the website.
“Johnny taught me a whole lot,” Washington said during a 1999 interview. “He’d say, ‘If you want to sing high notes, you’ve got to pay attention to how you go up there. Take your time. Don’t rush yourself. Once you get used to going up there, it will come easy.’ He played guitar, too. He’d show me how to hit notes and how to run from one note to another and pay attention to why that note fits there. He was like a dad. I could talk to him about anything.”
Washington backed Adams on several Rounder Records albums before setting out with the Roadmasters in 1981, NOLA.com reported. He released his first album, “Leader of the Pack,” with the Hep’Me label, that year.
The Roadmasters, featuring Washington, drummer Wilbert “Junkyard Dog” Arnold, bassist Jack Cruz and saxophonist Tom Fitzpatrick, played Saturdays at the Maple Leaf Bar in New Orleans, according to the website.
Washington also was one of the first musicians to play in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit the area, playing via generator at the Maple Leaf, NOLA.com reported.
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