Skip James

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Nehemiah Curtis "Skip" James (born June 21, 1902 in Yazoo City , Mississippi , † October 3, 1969 in Philadelphia , Pennsylvania ) was an American blues musician .

Live and act

Nehemiah Curtis James grew up on the Woodbine plantation near Bentonia. As a child he was nicknamed "Skippy", which was only shortened to "Skip" on the occasion of his first recordings in 1931. He first learned piano and organ in Sunday school, later guitar with Henry Stuckey , whom he later stated as an important influence on his music. Around 1918 he began to work as a musician in Memphis (Tennessee) .

In 1931 he recorded 26 tracks for Paramount (from his own memory), of which only 18 were published.

His musical career ended with the economic crisis. In 1932 he became a Baptist lay preacher.

He was "rediscovered" during the 1964 Folk Revival by John Fahey , Bill Barth (later one of the founders of The Insect Trust ) and Henry Vestine (later a member of Canned Heat ) at Tunica County Hospital, Mississippi , and resigned that same year with Mississippi John Hurt at the Newport Folk Festival . Numerous concerts and several LPs with new recordings and compilations of his pre-war recordings followed.

In 1969, Skip James succumbed to cancer.

Outstanding stylistic device was his unusual falsetto voice and his filigree fingerpicking. He used different open guitar tunings (E minor, D minor, A major) and thus achieved extraordinary timbres.

Best known are probably his pieces I'm so glad , which became a hit in the version by Cream , and the Hard Time Killin 'Floor Blues , which was featured in the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? by the Coen brothers was performed by Chris Thomas King . Other cover versions recorded, among others, Johnny Winter .

In the documentary Soul of a man by Wim Wenders , James was one of the three portrayed musicians (alongside JB Lenoir and Blind Willie Johnson ).

A key role will also James' Devil Got My Woman in the movie Ghost World by Terry Zwigoff one.

Sound carrier (selection)

New recordings

  • Greatest Of The Delta Blues Singers (Melodeon, 1964)
  • A Tribute To Skip James - Volume One (Biograph, 1964)
  • Today! (Vanguard, 1966)
  • Devil Got My Woman (Vanguard, 1968)

Re-releases of the 1931 session

  • King Of The Delta Blues Singers (Biographer, 1968)
  • The Complete 1931 Session (Yazoo, 1986)


  • Stephen Calt: I'd Rather be the Devil - Skip James + the Blues - Da Capo Press, New York, 1994.
  • Maël Rannou (author) and Jean Bourguignon (draftsman): Skip James (comic), Paris, BDMusic, 2016.


  1. Rob Hutten, Interview with Dr. David Evans , 1996, Archived Copy ( Memento of the original from October 6, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , (Accessed August 16, 2006) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /