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He was born in Louisville, Kentucky, United States, and moved to Chicago, Illinois around 1916, studying with pianist Clarence Jones. He was an all-round pianist, who generally incorporated boogie-woogie styles into more varied pieces such as "Chicago Stomps" (1924) which drew on ragtime and other popular styles of the time.
He made hundreds of piano rolls in the early 1920s, for the Columbia (later renamed Capitol) Music Roll Company in Chicago, before accompanying many singers on Paramount Records and appearing with small 'spasm bands' like the Midnight Rounders and the State Street Ramblers. He also duetted with Johnny Dodds, and led his own groups, including Blythe's Sinful Five and Jimmy Blythe's Owls.
Altogether, James Blythe is known, or thought, to have appeared on at least 243 recordings (not counting alternate takes, and not counting some additional recordings questionably attributed to him)
Blythe died of meningitis in Chicago in 1931, aged 30.
- Peter J. Silvester, A Left Hand Like God : a history of boogie-woogie piano (1989), page 52-54.
- Paolo Fornara, "Jimmy Blythe Discography" here: Jimmy Blythe discography
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