James Andrew Rushing a.k.a Mr. Five by Five a.k.a. Jimmy Rushing was one of the earliest Jazzy Blues shouters. He influenced later blues singers like Big Joe Turner, Wynonie Harris, and Jimmy Witherspoon. Back in the day he wrote or co-wrote classic blues songs like “Boogie Woogie (I may be Wrong)” and “Good Morning Blues”. Especially the live version of “Boogie Woogie” is very inspiring.
Jimmy Started his music career at an early age, they say he was brought up the stage in a bar by jazz singer Carlyn Williams and became a singer since then. In 1923 and1924 he toured through the Midwest and California before settling there.
“Boogie Woogie (I may be Wrong)”
The opening piano chords really dig deep and are a perfect example of how boogie-woogie should be played. Than Jimmy starts singing fast and rhythmic “Sometimes I wonder, Baby why don’t you write to me”. Next, we get dragged into some of the finest instrumental solos around. From piano to guitar, from sax to trumpet. “Boogie Woogie” is like a train at full speed delivering some of the finest music notes around.
“Mr. Five by Five”
He got his nickname “Mr. Five by Five” from an eponymous 1942 popular song that was a hit for Harry James and others; the lyrics describe Rushing’s rotund build: “he’s five feet tall and he’s five feet wide”. Mr. Five by Five was the featured vocalist of Count Basie’s Orchestra from 1935 to 1948.
The song was introduced in the motion pictures Behind the Eight Ball and Who Done It?, both of which were 1942 Universal Pictures releases.
Influencer and example: Blues shouting frontman Jimmy Rushing
Jimmy Rushing music was clearly an influence for later shouters like Wynonie Harris and Big Joe Turner. Big Joe took it further by bringing more ägressiong” into his lyrics. Wynonie Harris by adding more show to the music. He worked alongside the biggest names in jazz an blues, including Count Basie. He was remarkable for touring over the USA and the world but above all, for leaving blues classic behind him in history.
Photo credit: Jimmy Rushing William P Gottlieb Public domain via Wikimedia Commons (