Jimmy Rushing

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Jimmy Rushing, appearance at the New York jazz club Aquarium, approx. August 1946.
Photography by William P. Gottlieb .

Jimmy Rushing (born August 26, 1903 in Oklahoma City , Oklahoma , † June 8, 1972 in New York ; actually James Andrew Rushing ) was an American blues and jazz singer and songwriter .


Rushing came from a musical family; his father was a trumpeter in brass bands and at parades; his mother sang in the church choir and her brother, the pianist and singer Wesley Manning, introduced him to the blues. He later recorded a brothel song by his uncle, "Tricks Ain't Walkin 'No More," an indecent dialogue between a pimp and his servant.

He was a self-taught violin and piano player at an early age. As early as 1923/24 he toured the Midwest and California as a blues singer. In Los Angeles he sang with Jelly Roll Morton and Harvey Brooks , but then returned to Oklahoma. In 1927 he went to the Blue Devils of Walter Page , one of the most famous Territory Bands in the American Southwest (where he soon met Count Basie ) and in the orchestra of Bennie Moten (from 1929 until after Moten's death in 1935). He then continued to work in the newly formed Count Basie Orchestra ; between 1937 and 1939 he recorded twenty tracks with the Basie band for Decca Records .

Rushing belonged to the group of "blues shouters" , and he was often accompanied to his blues singing by Basie's band, which played a strongly blues-influenced swing with roots in Kansas City jazz . He was in the Basie band from 1935 to 1948. In addition to the obligatory jump numbers, which Rushing often sang, Basie had special blues titles written for him; his first record, the “Blue Devil Blues” from 1929 with the Blue Devils , provided this form, and his third record, “That's Too, Do” (1930) anticipates two later classics from the Basie era, “Good Morning Blues "and" Sent for You Yesterday "(1938). Probably the most famous recording of Rushing with Basie is “Goin 'to Chicago Blues”, which was also recorded with the band as “I Left My Baby”. All of the Rushing Blues titles combined old folk texts with the singer's own; he condensed it into compact and flexible phrases consisting of quarter notes like "sayin 'Son, you've a home, as long as I've got mine" or "I sent for you yesterday, here I come today."

During his time in the basie band, he also made recordings with Benny Goodman , Bob Crosby and other band leaders; After around 13 years with Basie, when Basie temporarily disbanded the band in 1950, he initially withdrew and then formed his own group. As a result, he had guest appearances a. a. 1957 with the Basie-Band at the Newport Jazz Festival and 1959 at Duke Ellingtons Jazz Party (Columbia). Rushing's solo career began with a series of pure blues records, which he recorded with his own sextet for Vanguard and Columbia ( Little Jimmy Rushing and The Big Brass ); The classic recordings by Bessie Smith and Clara Smith were also models for this . He also worked with the Dave Brubeck Quartet ; In 1959 he performed with the Buck Clayton All-Stars in Copenhagen. In 1963 his album Five Feet of Soul was created with arranger Al Cohn . He then performed with tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims in New York's Half Note , but no recordings were made with him. In 1967 he recorded with the Earl Hines Quartet; for a last album for RCA Victor ( The You and Me That Used to Be ) he recorded mostly jazz standards in 1970 with his band around Zoot Sims, Al Cohn with guest soloists Budd Johnson and Ray Nance .

Because of his plump figure, he was nicknamed " Mr. Five by Five " (which was also his signature song, " He is five feet tall and he's five feet wide "). A leukemia disease in 1971 ended his career.


According to Leonard Feather , Rushing established himself as an excellent blues shouter with a "distinctive timbre, exuberant delivery and rhythmic swing, although he thought of himself that he rather limited the blues characteristics." For the critics Richard Cook and Brian Morton went with his sheer physical presence with a great voice; he was a "nice and friendly man" who was active until his death in 1972. His backing musician Rudy Powell said of him: “Jim's biggest influence is the funky feeling . He knows the blues (...) ”. Similar to his favorite singers Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby, “Rushing gives the impression of a heavy, rough voice that is so supple because it uses rhythm and accents in a certain way. To achieve suppleness, he has to swing or nothing works, something he learned from Coleman Hawkins , ”wrote author Will Friedwald .

Choice of discography

  • 1955: Jimmy Rushing Sings the Blues
  • 1955: Listen to the Blues
  • 1956: Cat Meets Chick
  • 1957: The Jazz Odyssey of James Rushing Esq.
  • 1958: Little Jimmy Rushing and the Big Brass
  • 1958: If This Ain't the Blues
  • 1960: Brubeck and Rushing - The Dave Brubeck Quartet featuring Jimmy Rushing
  • 1960: Rushing Lullabies (contains the original albums Little Jimmy Rushing or The Big Brass )
  • 1960: Jimmy Rushing and the Smith Girls
  • 1963: Five Feet of Soul (with Al Cohn , Snooky Young and Zoot Sims )
  • 1964: Two Shades of Blue
  • 1967: Every Day I Have the Blues (with Clark Terry , Dickie Wells , Buddy Tate )
  • 1967: Gee, Baby, Ain't I Good to You
  • 1967: Who Was It Sang That Song? (with Buck Clayton , Sir Charles Thompson )
  • 1967: Blues and Things with Earl Hines
  • 1968: Livin 'the Blues
  • 1986: Sent for You Yesterday
  • 1971: The You and Me That Used to Be
  • 1971: Goin 'to Chicago (with Lawrence Brown , Vic Dickenson , Walter Page , Freddie Green )


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Date of birth according to Carlo Bohländer a. a. Reclam's Jazz Guide 1989
  2. Will Friedwald mentions that Rushing gave up the music business after his return and intended to work in his father's takeaway. See Friedwald, p. 89.
  3. Will Friedwald reproduces Rushing's account that he was the one who drew Page's attention to the young pianist who was in another touring orchestra: He brought Bill (not yet “Count”) Basie to the Blue Devils . " Jimmy didn't act for me, " Basie later recalled, " I was Jimmy ." Quoted from W. Friedwald, p. 89.
  4. The title was already hinted at by Bessie Smith in her recording of "Jail House Blues"; See W. Friedwald, p. 90.
  5. Information and quotations from W. Friedwald, p. 90.
  6. L. Feather / I. Gitler, p. 576.
  7. ^ Both quotations from W. Friedwald, p. 88.