Elmore James

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The Sky is Crying, 45RPM, 1965

Elmore James (born January 27, 1918 in Mississippi , † May 24, 1963 in Chicago , Illinois ) was an American blues musician . Alongside Muddy Waters, he is one of the most influential slide guitarists of the Chicago blues , whose style has shaped many blues rock and rock musicians .


Typical of James was his powerful, rough vocals, which he accompanied with his electrically amplified slide guitar game, which was clearly influenced by Robert Nighthawk and especially Robert Johnson .

life and work

Elmore James was born out of wedlock to Leora Brooks in 1918 in Richland (Lexington or Canton, according to other sources), Mississippi. He worked in agriculture before starting his career as a traveling musician. Here he worked with musicians like Robert Johnson, who had a strong influence on him, and Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller). Robert Johnson influenced both his guitar style and part of his repertoire ( Dust My Broom and Crossroads ). Accompanied by his powerful play on an amplified slide guitar and his falsetto voice , Elmore James became one of the most influential musicians of the electrified Chicago blues.

Between 1943 and 1945, with the exception of his time as a marine , he lived as a hobo and hitchhiked through the southern states. Elmore James began his recording career in 1951 with Lillian McMurry's record label Trumpet Records . In the following twelve years James made recordings with the big blues labels Modern Records and Chess Records . His biggest hits were Dust My Broom ( Blues Hall of Fame 1983, Grammy Hall of Fame 1998), The Sky Is Crying , Shake Your Money Maker and It Hurts Me Too , which are still played by countless musicians from the blues and rock scene. The song Dust My Broom was previously recorded by Robert Johnson in 1936. On the blues guitarist side, Homesick James in particular - a cousin of Elmore James, his first slide guitar teacher and later band bassist - Hound Dog Taylor and JB Hutto have preserved and continued the musical legacy of Elmore James. Among the rock guitarists, Duane Allman of The Allman Brothers Band , Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top and Johnny Winter were significantly influenced by Elmore James.

Elmore James was often accompanied by musicians from the Tampa Red band , in which the saxophonist J. T. Brown also played, who became known among rock fans primarily through his recordings with Fleetwood Mac , and by the jazz musician Boyd Atkins .

Just as he was noticed in Europe (especially in Great Britain ) as part of the Blues Revival , Elmore James died of a heart attack.

He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980.


Elmore James mainly influenced young British bands with his style, who invoked the Afro-American blues in the early 1960s. His admirers include Keith Richards and Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones , John Mayall , Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton , among others .

The British band Fleetwood Mac was originally a blues band - in the late 1960s with guitarist Peter Green . Another member of this formation was Jeremy Spencer . He was able to imitate Elmore James vocally and instrumentally (almost) perfectly and was better known than the original in his time.

In 2011, Rolling Stone listed James as 30th of the 100 best guitarists of all time .



  • 1960 Blues After Hours Crown
  • 1961 Blues After Hours Ace
  • 1964 Original Folk Blues United Recordings
  • 1965 I Need You P-Vine Records
  • 1968 Something Inside of Me Bell
  • 1968 The Late Fantastiacally Great Ember
  • 1968 Tough
  • 1969 Blues in My Heart, Rhythm In My Soul
  • 1969 Whose Muddy Shoes MCA / Chess

Compilations (selection)

  • 1984 The Original Meteor & Flair Sides Ace
  • 1989 The Complete Fire & Enjoy Sessions, Pt. 1 Collectable Records
  • 1989 The Complete Fire & Enjoy Sessions, Pt. 2 collectable records
  • 1989 The Complete Fire & Enjoy Sessions, Pt. 3 collectable records
  • 1989 The Complete Fire & Enjoy Sessions, Pt. 4 collectable records
  • 1992 King of the Slide Guitar: The Fire / Fury / Enjoy Recordings Capricorn
  • 1994 The Classic Early Recordings: 51-56 [Box] P-Vine Records
  • 2004 1951-1953 Classics
  • 2006 Final Sessions New York 1963 Charly

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. Rolling Stone , December 18, 2015, accessed August 8, 2017 .