“Little Walter” DeVenne

There are not many disc jockeys that are able to get to “Legendary” status. But oldies DJ “Little Walter” DeVenne is one of them. Little Walter became an important person to the oldies community and got to know virtually all of the stars of the 50s and 60s.

Walter’s passion for rock and roll began at a very young age when his mother bought him a Little Richard 78RPM record, “Ain’t Nothing Happening,” along with a Fats Domino 78. That’s all it took. Little Walter was hooked forever and would go on to have a lifetime of involvement with the first generation of rock and roll, including his legendary radio show, Little Walter’s Time Machine, which at one point was syndicated in 62 markets around the country.

Walter started out as a gopher at Medford radio station WHIL where Big John, who also had a record store called Big John’s Oldies But Goodies Land, worked as a DJ. So In comparison to Big John, at 15 years old, he became “Little Walter.” Walter started out working at record stores when he was in third grade. He worked for Medford Music, Vera Music, Big John’s, and Skippy White’s.  His first gig as a DJ was with WTBS, MIT’s education radio station from 1968 to 1970. The show aired on Saturday nights at midnight. This was the beginning of Little Walter’s Time Machine. Almost immediately the show was a big hit and Walter was hired to do a show on WBCN. For a while he did both stations.

It was not uncommon that some of the performers coming to Boston for a gig would go to visit Little Walter, and sit in on his show for an interview. When Jackie Wilson was going to be in town for a show he would come by the WTBS studios, do the show, which Walter would tape, and then edit to be played on WBCN the next night. He did the same thing with Chuck Berry which would also air on both stations. At WBCN, he often shared the air with Peter Wolf who also had a show on station. Walter did his show on WBCN from 1968 to 1978. 

He then went to WROR from 1978 to 80. During his ROR days, Wolfman Jack, the legendary DJ that graced the movie American Graffiti, had a syndicated show on station. On occasion, The Wolfman would actually show up in Boston and the two would do shows together. Little Walter’s Time Machine also ran locally on WDLW, WCGY, WFNX, WMRE, and WBOQ. 

Walter loved doing events at clubs all around New England that would be broadcast on the air live. At one point he was doing 8 record hops per week.

Walter also developed a very serious remastering business where he produced countless compilations for artists, radio stations, and record labels including Relic, La Grande, Specialty, Collectibles, Old Town, Roulette, Imperial, Vee Jay, Sun and more. 

In 2005, Walter was diagnosed with throat cancer and underwent surgery. This took him out of circulation but his good friend Dion (DiMucci) encouraged him to get back into the business. Walter officially retired in 2016 and passed away on his 73rd birthday in 2021 from Covid-19. 

(by Fred Bramante)

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