Jimmy McCracklin

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Jimmy McCracklin
 Jimmy McCracklin in 1981
 Jimmy McCracklin in 1981
Background information
Birth nameJames David Walker Jr.
Born(1921-08-13)August 13, 1921
Elaine, Arkansas, U.S.
DiedDecember 20, 2012(2012-12-20) (aged 91)
San Pablo, California, U.S.
GenresWest Coast blues
Jump blues
deep soul[1]
Occupation(s)Pianist, vocalist, songwriter, composer
Years active1945–2012
LabelsGlobe Records, Swing Time, Checker Records, Imperial, Peacock, Trilon Records, Modern, Rounder, Classics Records, Bear Family, Ace, Stax, Minit; Hi Records

James David Walker Jr. (August 13, 1921 – December 20, 2012), better known by his stage name Jimmy McCracklin, was an American pianist, vocalist, and songwriter. His style contained West Coast blues, Jump blues, and R&B.[2] Over a career that spanned seven decades, he said he had written almost a thousand songs and had recorded hundreds of them.[3] McCracklin recorded over 30 albums, and earned four gold records. Tom Mazzolini of the San Francisco Blues Festival said of him, "He was probably the most important musician to come out of the Bay Area in the post-World War II years."[4]


McCracklin was born James David Walker Jr. on August 13, 1921.[5] Sources differ as to whether he was born in Elaine, Arkansas[4][5] or St. Louis, Missouri.[6] He joined the United States Navy in 1938, later settled in Richmond, California, and began playing at the local Club Savoy owned by his sister-in-law Willie Mae "Granny" Johnson.[7] The room-length bar served beer and wine, and Granny Johnson served home-cooked meals of greens, ribs, chicken, and other southern cuisine. A house band composed of Bay Area based musicians alternated with and frequently backed performers such as B. B. King, Charles Brown, and L. C. Robinson. Later in 1963 he would write and record a song "Club Savoy" on his I Just Gotta Know album.

His recorded a debut single for Globe Records, "Miss Mattie Left Me", in 1945,[8] and "Street Loafin' Woman" in 1946. McCracklin recorded for a number of labels in Los Angeles and Oakland, prior to joining Modern Records in 1949-1950. He formed a group called Jimmy McCracklin and his Blues Blasters in 1946, with guitarist Robert Kelton, later replaced by Lafayette Thomas who remained with the group until the early 1960s.[9]

His popularity increased after appearing on the TV pop Dick Clark's American Bandstand in support of his self-written single "The Walk" (1957),[10] subsequently released by Checker Records in 1958. It went to No. 5 on the Billboard R&B chart and No. 7 on the pop chart,[11] after more than 10 years of McCracklin selling records in the black community on a series of small labels. Jimmy McCracklin Sings, his first solo album, was released in 1962, in the West Coast blues style. In 1962, McCracklin recorded "Just Got to Know" for his own Art-Tone label in Oakland; the record made No. 2 on the R&B chart. For a brief period in the early 1970s McCracklin ran the Continental Club in San Francisco. He booked blues acts such as T-Bone Walker, Irma Thomas, Big Joe Turner, Big Mama Thornton, and Etta James.[12] In 1967, Otis Redding and Carla Thomas had success with "Tramp", a song credited to McCracklin and Lowell Fulson. Salt-n-Pepa made a hip-hop hit out of the song in 1987. Oakland Blues (1968) was an album arranged and directed by McCracklin, and produced by World Pacific. The California rock-n-roll "roots music" band The Blasters named themselves after McCracklin's backing band The Blues Blasters. Blasters' lead singer Phil Alvin explained the origin of the band's name: "I thought Joe Turner’s backup band on Atlantic records – I had these 78s – I thought they were the Blues Blasters. It ends up it was Jimmy McCracklin's. I just took the 'Blues' off and Joe finally told me, that’s Jimmy McCracklin’s name, but you tell ‘im I gave you permission to steal it."[1]

McCracklin continued to tour and produce new albums in the 1980s and 1990s.[13] Bob Dylan has cited McCracklin as a favorite.[14] He played at the San Francisco Blues Festival in 1973, 1977, 1980, 1981, 1984 and 2007. He was given a Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1990, and the Living Legend and Hall of Fame award at the Bay Area Black Music Awards, in 2007.[15] McCracklin continued to write, record, and perform into the 21st century.

He died in San Pablo, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area, on December 20, 2012, after a long illness, aged 91.[4]

Jimmy McCracklin was among hundreds of artists whose material was destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.[16]

Selected discography[edit]

Year Title Genre Label
2007 1951-1954 West Coast blues Classics
2004 1948-1951 West Coast blues Classics
2003 1945-1948 West Coast blues Classics
2003 Jumpin Bay Area 1948-1955 West Coast blues P-Vine Japan
1999 Tell It to the Judge! West Coast blues Gunsmoke
1997 The Walk: Jimmy McCracklin at His Best West Coast blues, Soul-Blues Razor & Tie
1994 A Taste of the Blues West Coast blues Bullseye Blues
1992 The Mercury Recordings West Coast blues, Soul-Blues Bear Family
1991 Jimmy McCracklin: My Story West Coast blues Rounder
1991 My Story West Coast blues Rounder
1981 All His Bluesblasters West Coast blues Ace
1978 Rockin' Man West Coast blues Stax
1972 Yesterday Is Gone West Coast blues Stax
1971 High on the Blues West Coast blues Stax
1969 Stinger Man Soul-Blues Minit
1968 Let's Get Together West Coast blues Minit
1966 New Soul of Jimmy McCracklin West Coast blues Imperial
1966 My Answer West Coast blues Imperial
1965 Think West Coast blues Imperial
1965 Every Night, Every Day West Coast blues Imperial
1963 My Rockin' Soul West Coast blues United
1963 I Just Gotta Know West Coast blues Imperial
1962 Jimmy McCracklin Sings West Coast blues Chess


"I can watch a guy work, listen to how he pronounce his words," said McCracklin, "and I can tell just how to fit that guy with a song".[17]


  1. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: M". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved March 7, 2019 – via robertchristgau.com.
  2. ^ Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music (1st ed.). Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 181. ISBN 1-904041-96-5.
  3. ^ Joel Selvin (2007-03-01). "Richmond's Jimmy McCracklin, a top-rank bluesman for many years, isn't coming back - he never left". SFGate. Retrieved 2015-08-30.
  4. ^ a b c Lee Hildebrand (1921-08-13). "Bay Area blues legend had 65-year career". SFGate. Retrieved 2012-12-21.
  5. ^ a b Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues - A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara: Praeger Publishers. pp. 159–160. ISBN 978-0313344237.
  6. ^ J.C. Marion (2004). "The Blues Blaster; Jimmy McCracklin". Archived from the original on 2009-10-28. Retrieved 2012-12-21.
  7. ^ Moore, Shirley Ann Wilson, To Place Our Deeds: The African American Community in Richmond, California, 1910-1963, University of California Press, page 132, (2000) - ISBN 0-520-22920-7
  8. ^ Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. p. 13. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
  9. ^ Vladimir, Bogdanov. All Music Guide to the Blues: The Definitive Guide to the Blues, Backbeat Books, page 384, (2003) - ISBN 0-87930-736-6
  10. ^ Cunningham, Lyn Driggs. Sweet, Hot, and Blue: St. Louis' Musical Heritage, McFarland Pub., page 110, (1989) - ISBN 0-89950-302-0
  11. ^ "Jimmy McCracklin - Biography". Billboard. Retrieved 2015-08-30.
  12. ^ Selvin, Joel. San Francisco, the Musical History Tour: A Guide to Over 200 of the Bay Area Most Memorable Music Sites, Chronicle Books, page 138, (1996) - ISBN 0-8118-1007-0
  13. ^ Rosen, Steven (July 6, 1988). A Circuit of Festivals Showcases the Blues. New York Times
  14. ^ Dylan, Bob (April 30, 2006). MUSIC: PLAYLIST; It's All Right, Ma, I'm Only D.J.ing. New York Times
  15. ^ Lee Hildebrand (2007-04-17). "Local musicians get overdue honors, but awards show deserves no prizes". SFGate. Retrieved 2015-08-30.
  16. ^ Rosen, Jody (25 June 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  17. ^ Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues - From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. p. 141. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.

External links[edit]