Category Archives: Rhythm and Blues

New York City based master guitarist Wild Jimmy Spruill

New York City based master guitarist Wild Jimmy Spruill

James “Jimmy” Spruill (June 9, 1934 – February 15, 1996) knew how to bend the notes on his guitar like a wizard. The New York City bluesman made fame as an excellent guitarist since the 1950s. As a session guitarist, his guitar solo were featured in many Rhythm and Blues, pop and blues songs. Wild Jimmy Spruill worked alongside musicians like John Hammond Jr., The Shirelles, Tarheel Slim and Elmore James.

Career in the 1960s at an East Coast nightclub

His career is described at his wkkipage: “Spruill formed an East Coast nightclub trio in the mid-1960s, with singer Tommy Knight and drummer Popsy Dixon. In the 1970s and 1980s, he worked as an interior decorator in New York City, working occasional music gigs when the opportunity arose, and made at least one European tour with guitarist/singer Larry Dale and pianist/singer Bob Gaddy whose older records he had played on. He died from a heart attack while traveling on a bus from Florida, where he had been visiting his family and saxophonist Noble “Thin Man” Watts, back to his home in The Bronx on February 15, 1996″. (Source: Wikimedia)

“…up and down strokes, but I knew how to choke the strings… you had to choke all the way down the neck to get that scratchin’ sound. Then I bent the notes, eight notes above from where I started… you know, ‘Eeeeooowwww’ back down. It’s hard if you don’t know how to do it, but to me it come natural. It was my own sound. I don’t go behind nobody… if I can’t be my own person, I don’t bother with it!”

Wild Jimmy Spruill in a interview with researcher John Broven, in 1986. Source: gvcrecords

Wild Jimmy Spruill the collection of his best work

His greatest material is published in two records called ‘Scratchin’: Wild Jimmy Spruill Story’ and Scratch N Twist”. These records are some fine grooving Rhythm and Blues records. You will understand why it’s called Scratch and Twist immediately, Wild Jimmy Scratches the notes a whole lot of times and finishes with a solo at the end of almost every riff. You will notices this in songs like “Cut and Dried” and “Raisin’ Hell”. Wild Jimmy Spruill coorperated with some of the greatest musicians of their era, therefore this album is a mix of all kinds of vocals, grooves and rhythms which makes it in my opinion an absolute masterpiece of Rhythm and Blues music, .

The Showman Guitarist Jimmy Spruill

Spruill was a showman, known for playing guitar with his teeth like  Jimi Hendrix. His sound was unconventional, notable for its hard attack and sense of freedom, unexpectedly going from assertive lead parts to rhythmically dynamic, scratching rhythms. At no time did Spruill use picks or any effects on his guitar – his sound was solely the result of his fingers.

Photo credit: Picture of cd cover Wild Jimmy Spruill. Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0) Flickr by CHRIS DRUMM

wild jimmy spruill – cut and dried 7

Wild Jimmy Spruill: Honky Tonk Hucklebuck

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Billy ‘The Kid’ Emerson a career of Blues, Rock ‘n Roll and Rhythm ‘nd Blues

Billy ‘The Kid’ Emerson a career of Blues, Rock ‘n Roll and Rhythm ‘nd Blues

Billy ‘The Kid’ Emerson has done it all. The piano player and singer recorded infectious music in a wide range from Rhythm and Blues to Rock ‘n Roll to Rockabilly, Blues and Gospel. You may know him for his 1955 hit record “Red Hot”, which was later covered by Elvis Presley and Billy Lee Riley. But Billy ‘The Kid’ has recorded way more songs in his long career, which led to collaborations with the greatest musicians in Blues and Rock ‘n Roll.

Born in Tarpon Springs, Florida Billy ‘The Kid’ Emerson learned the piano at a young age. He joined several local bands before he entered the United States Navy. After World War II Billy Emerson continued performing in the Florida area, where he picked up his nickname “The Kid”. According to Sun Records “He picked up his nickname while playing a joint in St. Petersburg; the club owner dressed the band up in cowboy duds that begged comparison with a certain murderous outlaw.

Billy ‘The Kid’ Emerson’ Sun records Days

After Billy Emerson met Ike Turner, while he was stationed in Memphis he became part of Turner’s Rhythm Kings. Turner introduced Emerson to the Sun Record label which led, in 1954 to ‘Billy the Kid’s first single called “No Teasing Around”. Billy Emerson became an important writer for Sun record. his repertoire consisted of a variety of Blues and Rhythm ‘n Blues songs like ‘When it Rains it Really Pours’. He became a popular musician in the Rock ‘n Roll and Rockabilly scene which inspired Elvis Presley, Billy Lee Riley for Sun and Bob Luma to re-record Emerson’s greatest hits.

Billy ‘The Kid’ Emerson for Vee-jay Records

Billy Emerson’ last recording for Sun “Little Fine Healthy Thing” failed to sell, Emerson exited Sun to sign with Chicago’s Vee-Jay Records in late 1955. Sun Records recalls: “Despite first-rate offerings such as the jumping “Every Woman I Know (Crazy ‘Bout Automobiles)” and a sophisticated “Don’t Start Me to Lying,” national recognition eluded Emerson at Vee-Jay too”.

At Vee-Jay Record Billy Emerson’s style became more Blues, more Rhythm ‘n Blues, nevertheless his song would stay as catchy as in the Sun period. For example the hit ‘Crazy ‘Bout Automobiles’, consist steady drums a groovy horn ensemble and a twisting saxophone solo. Above all there is room for the swinging vocals of Billy ‘the Kid’ Emerson.

Chess Records period

After a few years at Vee-Jay the recordings continued at Chess Records in 1958. Along his first few singles was “Woodchuck”. Emerson recorded this song earlier at Sun Records. The Chicago version, is much bluesy more singing, less talking. Another song from the Chess period is ‘Holy Mackerel Baby’, in this song Emerson tried a style of singing I haven’t heard before. Clean, no shouting, no gritty of raw-edge.

Woodchuck at Chess
Woodchuck at SunHoly Mackerel Baby’

Own Label Tarpon and collaborations with the biggest bluesman

After recording for some of the largest labels in Blues and Rock ‘n Roll around the USA, Emerson decided to start his own label called Tarpon in 1966. In addition to Emerson’s own stuff, Tarpon issued Denise LaSalle’s debut single. He continued performing with the Biggest Bluesman like Willie Dixon, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Earl Hooker and Sonny Boy Williamson II. Billy ‘The Kid’ had an impressive career which led him to musical styles in the broad land of Roots Music.

Photo Credit feature picture: By Lioneldecoster (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Billy (The Kid) Emerson – Move Baby Move

Billy (The Kid) Emerson – every woman i know

 

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