Walter “Wolfman” Washington
On the Prowl
When Walter “Wolfman” Washington (1943 – 2022) spoke to us in 2019 he said he found his true self on the guitar. He also found his life’s work as a musician, first as a sideman with Irma Thomas and Lee Dorsey, and then as the leader of his own band, The Roadmasters. He became one of the most innovative and distinctive guitar players around.
In the years before our talk, Washington had stripped down his electric blues and rocking r&b sound to record My Future Is My Past, a compelling and intimate CD produced by Galactic member Ben Ellman. The album resonated with listeners. He began to draw crowds as a solo performer and with Joe Krown and Russell Batiste Jr.
The January 2019 issue of Offbeat magazine featured Washington as a recipient of its Best of the Beat Award: “Lifetime Achievement in Music”.
Inspired by a lifetime of joys and troubles and over half a century of musical experience, the “Wolfman” believed in creating music that makes you want to howl.
Walter “Wolfman” Washington online
As always, we provide a playlist of the music heard on our program. Please support your local musicians and record stores.
What’s In a Name?
Walter Washington wasn’t always known as “Wolfman” — or for that matter, even Walter. He was born Edward Washington, but he eventually became known as “War-War” due to his willingness to mix it up with other kids in the neighborhood. That same tendency once cost him his teeth, and contributed to his current nickname.
GT: My last question is was all that fighting you did as a Round Table member, and your scrappiness, and learning how to fight, and teaching other people to fight, did that lead to a dental situation that also made you into a "Wolfman"? WW: Yeah, I lost my teeth and everything. GT: Did you lose them in a fight? WW: Yeah. GT: It was in a fight? What happened? WW: That was some years ago. I lost my teeth almost 35 years ago. These are dentures. GT: I remember seeing you years ago and you performed without dentures. You were playing your guitar with your incisors. WW: These things, I lost my teeth when I was in high school. GT: In high school? So you got into a fight in high school? WW: Yeah. GT: That divorced you from your teeth? WW: Yeah. I didn’t get more teeth till I was 26, 27 years old.
The Rest of the Pack
Walter “Wolfman” Washington made music with A LOT of people throughout the years. But there are a couple of stars in that constellation of influences that shined a little brighter than the rest.
(November 11, 1934 – December 5, 1987)
Walter “Wolfman” Washington credits David Lastie with helping him find his style, his name, and his way in the New Orleans music scene. David Lastie, a member of the famed New Orleans musical family, is best known for his work as a jazz and R&B saxophone player with James Booker, Snooks Eaglin, James “Sugarboy” Crawford, and eventually his own Taste of New Orleans jazz band.
(January 5, 1932 – September 14, 1998)
Another one of Walter “Wolfman” Washington’s early mentors was the iconic New Orleans balladeer, Johnny Adams, aka “the Brown Canary.” Adams was responsible for getting Walter a room and a gig at the famous New Orleans social club, the Dew Drop Inn. Walter and Johnny would remain lifelong friends, and ended up touring together for 15 years. Here’s some footage from one of those tours.