Walter Vinson

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Walter Vinson
Born(1901-02-02)February 2, 1901
Bolton, Mississippi, United States
DiedApril 22, 1975(1975-04-22) (aged 74)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
GenresMemphis blues[1]
Occupation(s)Guitarist, singer, songwriter, musician
Instrument(s)Guitar, vocals, violin
Years active1920s–1970

Walter Vinson (February 2, 1901 – April 22, 1975) was an American Memphis blues guitarist, singer and songwriter.[1] He was a member of the Mississippi Sheiks, worked with Bo Chatmon and his brothers, and co-wrote the blues standard "Sitting on Top of the World".[1] He is erroneously known as Walter Vincson or Walter Vincent. He sometimes recorded as Walter Jacobs, using his mother's maiden name.


Vinson was born in Bolton, Mississippi, and grew up performing music locally. He rarely performed on his own but was regularly part of a duet, trio or group.[1]

He worked with Son Spand, Rubin Lacey and Papa Charlie McCoy in the early to mid-1920s. In 1928 he teamed with Lonnie Chatmon to form the Mississippi Sheiks.[1] The Sheiks and related groups, such as the Mississippi Mud Steppers, the Mississippi Hot Footers and Blacksnakes, recorded about a hundred sides in the first half of the 1930s, among them original compositions (probably by Vinson) such as "The World Is Going Wrong" and "I've Got Blood in My Eyes for You" (1931) (both recorded by Bob Dylan) or the topical "Sales Tax" (1934).[2] Vinson claimed to have composed "Sitting on Top of the World" one morning, after playing at a white dance in Greenwood, Mississippi.[3]

After the Sheiks split up in 1933, Vinson moved around the United States, recording with various musicians, including Leroy Carter and Mary Butler.[1][4] He moved from Jackson, Mississippi, to New Orleans and ultimately to Chicago. By the mid-1940s his appearances in blues clubs had dwindled. After a lengthy break from music, he reappeared as a performer in 1960. He played at music festivals and recorded further tracks over the next decade, before the onset of hardening of the arteries curtailed his public appearances.[1] Ill health forced him to move to a Chicago nursing home in 1972.[5]

Vinson died in Chicago in 1975 at the age of 74.[1] He was interred at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois, in a grave that remained unmarked until 2009.

In 2004, the Mississippi Sheiks were inducted in the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame. "Sitting on Top of the World" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008.[6]

In 2009, a concert produced by Steve Salter, of the nonprofit organization Killer Blues,[7] raised monies to place a headstone on Vinson's grave. The concert was held at the Howmet Playhouse Theater in Whitehall, Michigan, and featured the blues musicians Thomas Esparza and Lonnie Blonde. The event was a success, and a stone was placed in October 2009.


Year of release Album title Record label
1991 Complete Recorded Works (1928–1941) Document Records


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Ankeny, Jason (April 22, 1975). "Walter Vinson: Biography". Retrieved January 31, 2014.
  2. ^ Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books. p. 146. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
  3. ^ Ginell, Cary (1994). Milton Brown and the Founding of Western Swing. University of Illinois Press. p. 284. ISBN 0-252-02041-3.
  4. ^ a b "Walter Vinson, Complete Recorded Works (1928–1941): Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". Retrieved January 31, 2014.
  5. ^ "Walter Vinson". Retrieved February 4, 2014.
  6. ^ Moon, Tom (August 28, 2008). 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die. Workman Publishing. p. 507. ISBN 9780761139638. Retrieved February 4, 2014 – via Internet Archive. sitting on top of the world. grammy hall of fame.
  7. ^ "Killer Blues Headstone Project". Retrieved September 29, 2015.

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