James at the Long Beach Blues Festival, 1994
James Williamson, or
John William Henderson
April 30, 1910|
Somerville, Tennessee, United States
December 13, 2006 (aged 96)|
Springfield, Missouri, United States
|Instruments||Vocals, slide guitar|
Homesick James (April 30, 1910 – December 13, 2006) was an American blues musician known for his mastery of the slide guitar. He recorded covers of "Stones in My Passway" and "Homesick". He worked with his cousin, Elmore James, and with Sonny Boy Williamson II. His birth name is variously reported as John William Henderson, James Williams, or James Williamson.
He was born in Somerville, Tennessee, the son of Cordellia Henderson and Plez Williamson Rivers, who were both musicians. The year of his birth is uncertain. He stated that he was born in 1905, 1910, or 1914, while his union records give 1924.
Little is known about his early life. He developed a self-taught style of slide guitar through playing at local dances in his teens. He claimed to have played with Yank Rachell, Sleepy John Estes, Blind Boy Fuller and Big Joe Williams, among others, and to have been acquainted with Robert Johnson. He also claimed to be the older cousin of Elmore James, to have bought James his first guitar, and to have taught him how to play slide. However, some of these claims are unconfirmed.
By the mid-1930s he was based in Chicago, working with Horace Henderson's band at the Circle Inn and with the pianist Jimmy Walker at the Square Deal Club. He may have first recorded for RCA Victor in 1937, but this is also unconfirmed, and by 1938 may have begun playing electric guitar. His first known recordings were in 1952 for Chance Records, recording the tracks "Lonesome Ole Train" and "Homesick", which gave him his stage name. During the late 1940s and 1950s he worked with Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller), and with Elmore James, and in the early 1950s he worked in bands including Baby Face Leroy Foster, Snooky Pryor, Floyd Jones, and Lazy Bill Lucas. He was a member of Elmore James's band from 1955 to 1963, contributing to such tracks as "Dust My Broom," "The Sky Is Crying," and "Roll and Tumble." Elmore James is said to have died on Homesick's couch, while the latter frantically searched for the former's heart pills.
As a solo performer, he recorded for the Colt and USA labels in 1962, including a cover version of Robert Johnson's "Crossroads". His slide guitar style, not as refined as Elmore James's, traces back to Johnson's. He also recorded a 1964 album for Prestige Records, Blues on the South Side (Prestige OBCCD 529-2), including another of his best-known covers, "Stones in My Passway", and some tracks for Vanguard, which are available on the compilation album Chicago: The Blues Today.
One of his own songs, "Gotta Move" (also on Blues on the South Side) was covered (as "Got to Move") by Elmore James and by Fleetwood Mac. He is mentioned by name in the 1989 song "Fergus Sings the Blues" by the Scottish rock band Deacon Blue, with the lyric "Homesick James, my biggest influence".
- 1964 Blues on the South Side (Prestige/Original Blues)
- 1972 The Country Blues (Blues On Blues)
- 1973 Ain't Sick No More (Bluesway)
- 1973 Homesick James Williamson & Snooky Pryor (Caroline)
- 1976 Home Sweet Homesick James (Big Bear)
- 1977 Goin' Back Home (32 Jazz)
- 1979 Chicago Blues Festival vol.1 (Black and Blue)
- 1980 Homesick James & Snooky Pryor: Sad and Lonesome (Wolf)
- 1992 Sweet Home Tennessee (Appaloosa)
- 1994 Goin' Back in the Times (Earwig)
- 1995 Got to Move (Trix Records)
- 1997 Juanita (Appaloosa)
- 1997 Words of Wisdom (Priority)
- 1998 Last of the Broomdusters (Fedora)
- 2003 Homesick James & Snooky Prior: The Big Bear Sessions (Sanctuary Records)
- Bob L. Eagle; Eric S. LeBlanc. Blues: A Regional Experience. Books.google.co.uk. p. 242. Retrieved 2017-04-28.
- Harris, S. (1981). Blues Who's Who. New York, Da Capo Press. pp. 574–575.
- According to this Guardian article, he may have been born in 1905, 1910, 1914, or 1924.
- Doc Rock. "The Dead Rock Stars Club 2006 July to December". Thedeadrockstarsclub.com. Retrieved 2015-10-07.
- Homesick James, Discogs.com. Retrieved 27 September 2016
- "Homesick James Williamson | Biography, Albums, & Streaming Radio". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-10-07.
- Obituary in Juke Blues magazine, issue 63, 2007.
- Russell, T.; Smith, C. (2006). The Penguin Guide to Blues Recordings. London: Penguin Books. p. 263.
- Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books. p. 189. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
- Rowe, M. (1981). Chicago Blues: The City and the Music. New York: Da Capo Press. p. 41.
- Rowe, M. (1981). Chicago Blues: The City and the Music. New York: Da Capo Press. p. 109.
- "Homesick James". Web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 2003-05-26. Retrieved 2017-04-28.
- "Got to Move – Fleetwood Mac | Song Info". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-10-07.
- "Deacon Blue – Fergus Sings the Blues Lyrics". MetroLyrics. 2014-05-29. Retrieved 2015-10-07.