Born in 1951 and raised in a music-loving home in Ocean City, New Jersey, Walter Trout felt the calling to music at a young age. His first instrument was trumpet, playing in the school band. A chance meeting with the mighty Duke Ellington catapulted Trout’s pursuit of a professional music career – what Walter terms “a turning point” in his life – when the Walter’s mother orchestrated a meeting with jazz legends Ellington, Cat Anderson, Johnny Hodges and Paul Gonsalves for the youngster’s tenth birthday. The seed was planted about a career playing music.
In the mid-1960’s Trout’s instrument of choice switched to electric guitar after hearing an album which was to change his whole appreciation of music. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band featuring Mike Bloomfield cemented Walter’s musical ambitions towards the blues genre and the electric guitar. In those vinyl grooves, Walter heard the guitar speaking to his soul, expressing what words could not. Walter Trout promised himself to learn this musical language and dedicate his life to the guitar. For hours, days, weeks, months he was locked in his bedroom practicing until his fingers bled - the obsession unfortunately turning the A-student into a high school dropout. As a shy teenager growing up in a turbulent household, his singular solace became his rapidly developing ability to express his feelings playing the guitar and his vision of becoming a professional musician.
In his late teens and early twenties, Trout played in numerous New Jersey bands, competing at the time for rank with “Steel Mill” featuring a young Bruce Springsteen. In 1973, he packed up his belongings in a VW Beetle and drove cross-country to the west coast, arriving in Los Angeles with only a few changes of clothes, a trumpet, a mandolin and his guitars.
He developed into an ace sideman, befriending and backing California blues artists, often being the only “white boy” in the black neighborhood clubs. His technique accelerated rapidly as he played with Finis Tasby, Pee Wee Crayton, Lowell Fulsom, and Percy Mayfield, among others. The extremely meager pay was compensated by the satisfaction musical expression brought the young musician. Unfortunatley he was also developing the detrimental habits of drug and alcohol abuse shared by many fellow artists. Walter often teamed with Hammond B3 wizard Deacon Jones and the apprenticeship continued in the bands of John Lee Hooker, Big Mama Thorton and Joe Tex.
By 1981, Trout’s reputation led to the invitation to join venerable blues rock band Canned Heat, where he remained through 1984. In Canned Heat he quickly learned the ways of a touring musician, traveling the US and abroad, further refining his already stunning abilities playing night after night, and confirming his reputation as a top flight lead guitarist. Trout’s substance abuse was further enabled in a band with a history of hard-partying.
When the call came to join the legendary John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Trout jumped and found himself sharing the spotlight with fellow guitarist Coco Montoya. Trout and Montoya lifted the band to a new level, as Mayall’s Bluesbreakers enjoyed unprecedented album sales and high profile tours in the US and abroad. Walter felt that playing with Mayall was as close to his childhood dream as he could get. At the same time Walter’s unhealthy habits reached a fever pitch; the band’s rider required a nightly bottle of Jack Daniel’s for Trout’s consumption. An epiphany came when the band was in East Berlin, doing shows along side of Carlos Santana. After seeing Walter playing in an intoxicated state, Carlos took him aside, and in a heartfelt conversation related that Trout was squandering the gift that God had given him. It was a turning point in Walter’s life, as a master musician and idol confided an appreciation of the young man’s talent and concerns of his self-destruction…. In fairly short order Walter Trout quit drugs and alcohol.