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Jay McShann at The Edinburgh Jazz Festival, c. 1995
Photo: Phil Wight
|Birth name||James Columbus McShann|
|Also known as||Hootie|
January 12, 1916|
Muskogee, Oklahoma, United States
|Died||December 7, 2006
Kansas City, Missouri, United States
|Genres||Blues, swing, jazz, jump blues, bebop|
|Occupations||Musician, bandleader, composer, soldier|
During the 1940s, McShann was at the forefront of blues and hard bop jazz musicians mainly from Kansas City. He assembled his own big band, with musicians that included some of the most influential artists of their time, including Charlie Parker, Bernard Anderson, Ben Webster and Walter Brown. His kind of music became known as "the Kansas City sound".
Nicknamed Hootie, McShann was born James Columbus McShann in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Musically, his education came from Earl Hines' late-night broadcasts from Chicago's Grand Terrace Cafe: "When 'Fatha' [Hines] went off the air, I went to bed". He began working as a professional musician in 1931, performing around Tulsa, Oklahoma and neighboring Arkansas.
He moved to Kansas City, Missouri in 1936, and set up his own big band, which featured variously Charlie Parker (1937–42), Al Hibbler, Ben Webster, Paul Quinichette, Bernard Anderson, Gene Ramey, Jimmy Coe, Gus Johnson (1938–43), Harold "Doc" West, Earl Coleman, Walter Brown, and Jimmy Witherspoon among others. His first recordings were all with Charlie Parker, the first as "The Jay McShann Orchestra" on August 9, 1940.
Although they included both swing and blues numbers, the band played blues on most of its records; its most popular recording was "Confessin' the Blues". The group disbanded when McShann was drafted into the Army in 1944 and, the big-band era being over, he was unable to successfully restart it after the war ended.
After World War II McShann began to lead small groups featuring blues shouter Jimmy Witherspoon. Witherspoon started recording with McShann in 1945, and fronting McShann's band, and had a hit in 1949 with "Ain't Nobody's Business." As well as writing much material, Witherspoon continued recording with McShann's band, which also featured Ben Webster. McShann had a modern rhythm and blues hit with "Hands Off", featuring a vocal by Priscilla Bowman, in 1955.
In the late 1960s, McShann became popular as a singer as well as a pianist, often performing with violinist Claude Williams. He continued recording and touring through the 1990s. Well into his 80s, McShann still performed occasionally, particularly in the Kansas City area and Toronto, Ontario where he made his last recording "Hootie Blues" in February 2001 after a recording career of 61 years. In 1979, he appeared prominently in the documentary on Kansas City jazz, The Last of the Blue Devils.
On one of their earliest albums, Five by Five (a UK EP) and 12x5 (a US LP) (both 1964), The Rolling Stones recorded a cover of "Confessin' the Blues", a song McShann had co-written with Walter Brown in the 1940s. Crime-fiction writer Elmore Leonard featured McShann as a character in his 2005 novel, The Hot Kid.
Jay McShann died on December 7, 2006, at St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, aged 90. He was survived by his companion of more than 30 years, Thelma Adams (known as Marianne McShann), and three daughters.
- Blues Hall of Fame.
- Pioneer Award of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.
- Paris All-Star Blues (A Tribute to Charlie Parker) – Best Large Jazz Ensemble Performance – Nominee, 1991 Grammy Awards.
- Goin' to Kansas City – Best Traditional Blues Album – Nominee, 2003 Grammy Awards.
- Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, 1989.
- 1954: Kansas City Memories – The Jay McShann Orchestra with Charlie Parker, Walter Brown, Al Hibbler and Paul Quinichette (DECCA)
- Scott Yanow. "Jay McShann | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-06-14.
- "Jay McShann Blog". Jaymcshann.com. September 23, 2012. Retrieved 2014-06-14.
- "Gus Johnson: 1913–2000". Jazzhouse.org. Retrieved 2014-06-14.
- "The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz". Books.google.es. November 18, 1999. Retrieved 2014-06-14.
- [dead link]
- "Images for Jay McShann And His Orchestra With Charlie Parker, Walter Brown, Al Hibbler, Paul Quinichette". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2014-06-14.
- "Jay McShann | Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-06-14.
- Free MIDI sequences of five piano solos published by Jay McShann in 1942 : "Confessin' the Blues", "Dexter Blues", "Vine Street Boogie", "Hootie Blues", and "Jumpin' the Blues"