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Big Wheeler

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He's been part of the Chicago circuit for four decades, but Golden "Big" Wheeler waited until 1993 to release his debut album on Delmark. As befits such a veteran, Wheeler's sturdy harmonica style is a throwback to the 1950s and his idol, Little Walter. Wheeler was first turned onto the harp while driving a cab by one of his regular fares, Buster Brown. Brown's shot at "Fannie Mae"-fired stardom was still a few decades down the line, but Wheeler's was even further off. He left Georgia in 1941, eventually settling in Chicago, where he met Little Walter. The two became friends, Walter acting as something of a mentor. Wheeler began fronting his own combo in 1956 but never really sustained a musical career (he worked as a mechanic to pay the bills). In 1993, Delmark unleashed the harpist's debut disc, Big Wheeler's Bone Orchard, which found him backed by a young local outfit, the Ice Cream Men. Jump In followed in 1997. Wheeler's brother, guitarist James Wheeler, is also a longtime denizen of the Windy City scene; he's currently a mainstay of Mississippi Heat after spending an extended stint behind Otis Rush. ~ Bill Dahl

Birth Name:

Golden Wheeler


15 December 1929 in Beaconton, GA

Years Active:

'50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s