We don’t really talk about street musicians over here at hissing lawns. Let’s be honest, a lot of people don’t consider them “real musicians”. I can say that I have seen many people playing on the streets of Savannah and, just like in the bars of Savannah, some of them are not so good and some of them are quite good. I think that anyone who can bring any type of music to our streets for everyone to hear is a valuable commodity to any city. There are few musicians who are able to play on the streets and earn a living. I was lucky enough to have the acquaintance of one of Savannah’s finest, Walter Harris.
Many of you knew Walter, even if not by name. He played on River Street, across from the Bayou, for many years. He later moved a little further east, closer to Spanky’s. He was the consummate street musician. He played on River Street for over 25 years. He could tell you anything about the history of River Street (and much of downtown Savannah too). He told me once that he played on a Chevy commercial. He also said he was in a John Mellencamp video. He had an occasional gig to play, usually a private party. There is a DO article about him online. But mostly, he went to work every day on River Street. I have seen Walter barely able to get out of the car, then play on River Street for several hours, often for only a few dollars. He was one of the friendliest people I know, always greeting everyone with “how you doing?” If he thought you were a tourist, it would be quickly followed by “where you from”. No matter where your home city was, Walter had a song “just for you”. Walter passed away on Sunday night, he died peacefully in his sleep.
River Street will never be the same without him and Savannah has lost a great ambassador. I guess that whenever I go down to the Riverfront, I will always look over to the River side to see if Walter is playing there today. His loss will leave an empty place in my heart, as it does so many people.
Larry Jack Sammons