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Decade of Difference: Walter “Wolfman” Washington

Walter “Wolfman” Washington picked up his nickname from his signature howl that punctuated many of his songs. Washington and his band, the Roadmasters, mixed blues, R&B, funk and soul. In director Michael Murphy’s 2005 New Orleans music documentary “Make It Funky!,” he and his band performed and Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards bows down to Washington in tribute to his guitar style and tone.

Washington started his career backing New Orleans musical legends Irma Thomas, Lee Dorsey and Johnny Adams, who ultimately became a mentor and close friend. He played with Adams for 16 years including legendary Saturday night gigs for eight years at Dorothy’s Medallion Lounge where the music started at 3AM and ran till dawn.

Washington was in his late 30s before he released his first record in 1981 after more than two decades playing New Orleans clubs and touring – including a European tour in the 70s.

A New Orleans bar staple, Washington and the Roadmasters had regular weekly gigs that went well into the early hours of Sunday mornings. He was one of the first musicians to play in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina via generator-powered shows.

After more than 10 years without a new album, Washington made a late-career comeback with 2018’s. Produced by Galactic saxophonist Ben Ellman and released nationally, it featured an all-star backing band consisting of drummer Stanton Moore of Galactic and jazz bassist James Singleton and keyboardist David Torkanowsky.

Washington’s manager Adam Shipley is working to release his last record, recorded shortly before his death. “For the last six or seven years, Walter got the recognition he deserved,” Shipley said. “He put out some great music, and had a great life.”