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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Early One Morning - Elmore James

Elmore James (January 27, 1918 – May 24, 1963) was an American blues guitarist, singer, songwriter, band leader. He was known as "the King of the Slide Guitar" and had a unique guitar style, noted for his use of loud amplification and his stirring voice. James was born Elmore Brooks in the old Richland community in Holmes County, Mississippi (not to be confused with two other locations of the same name in Mississippi). He was the illegitimate son of 15-year-old Leola Brooks, a field hand. His father was probably Joe Willie "Frost" James, who moved in with Leola, and so Elmore took this as his name. His parents adopted an orphaned boy at some point named Robert Holston. Elmore began making music at the age of 12 using a simple one-string instrument ("diddley bow" or "jitterbug") strung up on a shack wall. As a teen he was playing at local dances under the names Cleanhead and Joe Willie James. His first marriage, circa 1942, was to Minnie Mae (maiden name unknown? and whom he apparently never divorced). He subsequently married twice more, to Georgianna Crump in 1947 and to a woman called Janice circa 1954. (Another reported marriage of Elmore to a Josephine Harris has been found to be a mistaken record of a different Elmore James.) James (like many other musicians) was strongly influenced by Robert Johnson, as well as by Kokomo Arnold and Tampa Red. Elmore recorded several of Tampa's songs, and even inherited from his band two of his famous "Broomdusters", "Little" Johnny Jones (piano) and Odie Payne (drums). There is a dispute as to whether Robert Johnson or Elmore wrote James' trademark song, "Dust My Broom". During World War II James joined the United States Navy, was promoted to coxswain and took part in the invasion of Guam against the Japanese. Upon his discharge, Elmore returned to central Mississippi and eventually settled in Canton with his adopted brother Robert Holston; it was at this time he learned that he had a serious heart condition. Working in Robert's electrical shop, he devised his unique electric sound, using parts from the shop and an unusual placement of two D'Armond pickups. He began recording with Trumpet Records in nearby Jackson in January 1951, first as sideman to the second Sonny Boy Williamson and also to their mutual friend Wille Love and possibly others, then debuting as a session leader in August with "Dust My Broom". It was a surprise R&B hit in 1952 and turned James into a star. He then broke his recording contract with Trumpet Records to sign up with the Bihari Brothers through their "scout" Ike Turner (who played guitar and piano on a couple of his early Bihari recordings). His "I Believe" was another hit a year later. During the 1950s he recorded for the Bihari brothers' Flair Records, Meteor Records and Modern Records labels, as well as for Chess Records and Mel London's Chief Records (his "It Hurts Me Too" was later a hit when he re-recorded it for Enjoy Records). His backing musicians were known as the Broomdusters. In 1959 he began recording for Bobby Robinson's Fire Records label. These include "The Sky Is Crying" (credited to Elmo James and His Broomdusters), "My Bleeding Heart", "Stranger Blues", "Look on Yonder Wall", "Done Somebody Wrong", and "Shake Your Moneymaker", all of which are among the most famous of blues recordings. James died of his third heart attack in Chicago in 1963, just prior to a tour of Europe with that year's American Folk Blues Festival. He was buried in the Newport Baptist Church Cemetery in Ebenezer, Mississippi. If you support live Blues acts, up and coming Blues talents and want to learn more about Blues news and Fathers of the Blues, ”LIKE” ---Bman’s Blues Report--- Facebook Page! I’m looking for great talent and trying to grow the audience for your favorite band!

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