Little Walter DeVenne
Walter A. DeVenne Jr., known to rock and roll fans worldwide as “Little Walter,” died on his 73rd birthday, January 16, 2021 – a victim of COVID-19.
Born in Somerville and raised in Medford, Massachusetts, Walter’s passion for mid-20th century rhythm & blues and doo wop – the essential building blocks of rock ‘n’ roll - began with two gifts, a 78 RPM records of Little Richard and Fats Domino.
At the age of 8, (1956) he was working for record shops being paid with 45's, which was his thrill. He would put a stack of them on the handlebars of his bike and peddle down the street to the radio station and give the jocks the new music so they could be the first to put it on the air.
By the age of 14, Walter was operating a pirate radio station from his basement. In the early 60s, he was behind the counter at “Big John’s Oldies but Goodies Land” record shop in the heart of Boston’s notorious “Combat Zone.” When asked why he went by the nickname “Little Walter,” he’d point to his boss and say, “Because he’s ‘Big John.’”
“Little Walter’s Time Machine,” his high-energy weekly radio show spotlighting the music and artists he so loved and respected, aired for decades on Boston radio stations like WBCN, WMEX, WROR, WCGY and WODS (Oldies 103) as well as small watt AM stations such as WTBS, WFNX, and WDLW, which he said stood for "We Dig Little Walter". He also worked at the start of Oldies 103.3 in Boston with Dave Van Dyke. He added the oldies music from his personal music library to the radio stations music files.
Walter did not just play the music on the radio – he put his production talents to work in compiling, restoring, remastering, and reissuing long out-of-print records by artists whose music might have been forgotten if not for his efforts. He was awarded a gold record for his mastering work in 1993’s “The Doo Wop Box.” He did substantial restoration on the Fats Domino catalog for EMI and Bear Family Records and was credited on some 50 reissues for Rhino Records. He also worked and remastered Relic Records, Time Life, Specialty, Collectables, LeGrand, Old Town… the list is endless.
Walter also loved taking his high-energy Time Machine to record hops and nightclubs around the Greater Boston area, including the Flying Machine and King’s Row.
Walter leaves his wife of 33 years, Sandra, his sons Michael Flynn, Greg, Walter III, a daughter Amanda, and his grandchildren Keira and Walter IV along with several nieces and nephews.