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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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