Jimmy Witherspoon

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For other persons with the same first and last name, see James Witherspoon.
Jimmy Witherspoon
Jimmy Witherspoon.jpg
Jimmy Witherspoon in June 1976
Background information
Birth name James Witherspoon
Also known as Spoon
Born (1920-08-08)August 8, 1920
Origin Gurdon, Arkansas, United States
Died September 18, 1997(1997-09-18) (aged 77)
Genres Jump blues[1]
Occupation(s) Singer
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1940s–1990s
Labels Various

James "Jimmy" Witherspoon (August 8, 1920 – September 18, 1997) was an American jump blues singer.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Witherspoon was born in Gurdon, Arkansas.[2] He first attracted attention singing with Teddy Weatherford's band in Calcutta, India, which made regular radio broadcasts over the U. S. Armed Forces Radio Service during World War II. Witherspoon made his first records with Jay McShann's band in 1945. He first recorded under his own name in 1947,[3] and two years later with the McShann band, he had his first hit, "Ain't Nobody's Business,"[2] a song which came to be regarded as his signature tune. In 1950 he had hits with two more songs closely identified with him: "No Rollin' Blues", "Big Fine Girl", as well as "Failing By Degrees" and "New Orleans Woman" recorded with the Gene Gilbeaux Orchestra which included Herman Washington and Don Hill on the Modern Records label. These were recorded from a live performance on May 10, 1949 at a "Just Jazz" concert Pasadena, CA sponsored by Gene Norman. Another classic Witherspoon composition is "Times Gettin' Tougher Than Tough".

Witherspoon's style of blues - that of the "blues shouter" - became unfashionable in the mid-1950s, but he returned to popularity with his 1959 album, Jimmy Witherspoon at the Monterey Jazz Festival, which featured Roy Eldridge, Woody Herman, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Earl Hines and Mel Lewis, among others.[4] He later recorded with Gerry Mulligan, Leroy Vinnegar, Richard "Groove" Holmes and T-Bone Walker.[2]

Tours and successes[edit]

In 1961 he toured Europe with Buck Clayton and returned to the UK on many occasions, featuring on a mid-'60s live UK recording Spoon Sings and Swings (1966) with tenor sax player Dick Morrissey's quartet. In 1970, he appeared on Brother Jack McDuff's London Blue Note recording To Seek a New Home together with British jazz musicians, including Dick Morrissey, again, and Terry Smith. In the 1970s he also recorded the album Guilty! (later released on CD as Black & White Blues) with Eric Burdon[2] and featuring Ike White & the San Quentin Prison Band. He then toured with a band of his own featuring Robben Ford and Russ Ferrante. A recording from this period, Spoonful, featured 'Spoon accompanied by Robben Ford, Joe Sample, Cornell Dupree, Thad Jones and Bernard Purdie.[5] He continued performing and recording into the 1990s.[5]

Other performers with whom Witherspoon recorded include Jimmy Rowles, Earl "Fatha" Hines, Vernon Alley, Mel Lewis, Teddy Edwards, Gerald Wiggins, John Clayton, Paul Humphrey, Pepper Adams, Kenny Burrell, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Jimmy Smith, Long John Baldry, Junior Mance, Ellington bassist Jimmy Woode, Kenny Clarke, Gerry Mulligan, Jim Mullen, Count Basie, Van Morrison, Dutch Swing College Band, Gene Gilbeaux and others.


In the 1995 film Georgia, Witherspoon portrayed a traveling, gun-collecting blues singer, Trucker, who has a relationship with the troubled character Sadie, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh.

He played Nate Williams in The Black Godfather (1974), and Percy in To Sleep with Anger (1990).


Witherspoon died of throat cancer in Los Angeles, California on September 18, 1997.[6]


Chart singles[edit]

Year Single Chart Positions
US Pop[7] US
1949 "Ain't Nobody's Business (Parts 1 & 2)" - 1
"In the Evening" - 5
"No Rollin' Blues" - 4
"Big Fine Girl" - 4
1952 "The Wind is Blowin' " - 7
1965 "You're Next" 98 -
1975 "Love is a Five Letter Word" - 31

LP, CD[edit]

  • 1957: Wilbur De Paris Plays & Jimmy Witherspoon Sings New Orleans Blues (Atlantic)
  • 1957: Goin' to Kansas City Blues (RCA Victor)
  • 1959: Battle of the Blues, Vol. 3 (De Luxe)
  • 1959: Feelin' the Spirit (HiFi)
  • 1959: Jimmy Witherspoon (Crown)
  • 1959: Jimmy Witherspoon & Jay McShann (Black Lion)
  • 1959: Singin' the Blues (Blue Note)
  • 1960: Jimmy Witherspoon at the Monterey Jazz Festival [live]
  • 1960: Jimmy Witherspoon Sings the Blues (Crown)
  • 1961: Spoon (Collectables)
  • 1961: There's Good Rockin' Tonight (World Pacific)
  • 1962: A Spoonful of Blues (Ember)
  • 1962: Hey, Mrs. Jones (Reprise)
  • 1962: Roots (Reprise)
  • 1963: Stormy Monday and Other Blues By Jimmy Witherspoon (Sutton)
  • 1963: Baby, Baby, Baby (Prestige) also released as Mean Old Frisco
  • 1963: Evenin' Blues (Prestige)
  • 1963: Blues Around the Clock (Prestige)
  • 1964: Blue Spoon (Prestige)
  • 1964: Some of My Best Friends Are the Blues (Prestige)
  • 1965: Spoon in London (Prestige)
  • 1966: Spoon Sings and Swings (Fontana)
  • 1966: Blues for Easy Livers (Prestige)
  • 1966: Blues for Spoon and Groove (Surrey)
  • 1966: Blue Point of View
  • 1966: Blues Box
  • 1966: In Person (Verve)
  • 1967: The Blues Is Now (Verve)
  • 1968: Spoonful of Soul (Verve)
  • 1969: Blues Singer (BluesWay)
  • 1970: Handbags & Gladrags (ABC)
  • 1970: Huhh (BluesWay)
  • 1970: Ain't Nobody's Business with Dutch Swing College Band (DSC)
  • 1971: Guilty (United Artists)
  • 1972: Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival
  • 1973: Groovin' & Spoonin' (Original Music)
  • 1974: Jimmy Witherspoon & Ben Webster (Verve)
  • 1975: Love Is a Five Letter Word (Rhino)
  • 1975: Spoonful Avenue (Rhino)
  • 1976: Live: Jimmy Witherspoon & Robben Ford (Rhino)
  • 1976: Live Crosscut (Germany)
  • 1980: Jimmy Witherspoon with Panama Francis & the Savoy Sultans Sings the Blues (Muse)
  • 1980: Spoon's Life (Evidence)
  • 1980: Spoon in Australia (Jazzis)
  • 1981: Big Blues (JSP)
  • 1985: Patcha, Patcha, All Night Long (Pablo)
  • 1986: Midnight Lady Called the Blues (Muse)
  • 1988: Rockin' L.A. (Fantasy)
  • 1989: Spoon Concerts (Fantasy)
  • 1990: Live at Condon's (Who's Who in Jazz)
  • 1991: Call Me Baby (Night Train)
  • 1992: Live at the Notodden Festival (Blue Rock'It)
  • 1992: The Blues, the Whole Blues & Nothing But the ... (Indigo)
  • 1993: Hot Licks: Ain't Nobody's Business (Sound Solutions)
  • 1993: Blowin' in from Kansas City (Ace)
  • 1994: Amazing Grace (Delta Distribution)
  • 1995: Spoon's Blues (Stony Plain )
  • 1995: Ain't Nothin' New About the Blues [live] (Aim)
  • 1995: Taste of Swing Time (Tuff City)
  • 1995: American Blues (Rhino)
  • 1996: Live at the Mint (Private)
  • 1996: 'Spoon & Groove (Rykodisc)
  • 1997: Tougher Than Tough (Blue Moon)
  • 1997: Jimmy Witherspoon with the Junior Mance Trio (Stony Plain)
  • 1998: Jazz Me Blues: The Best of Jimmy Witherspoon (Prestige)
  • 2000: Big Boss Man [live] (Starburst)
  • 2000: Jimmy Witherspoon with the Duke Robillard Band [live] (Stony Plain)
  • 2000: Same Old Blues (Catfish)
  • 2001: Goin' to Chicago (Tim)
  • 2001: Sings Blues (Aim)
  • 2002: Spoon Meets Pau (Eureka )
  • 2002: Goin' Around the Circles (Past Perfect )
  • 2003: Sings the Blues Sessions (Ace)
  • 2004: Very Best of Jimmy Witherspoon: Miss Miss Mistreater (Collectables)
  • 2004: 1948–1949 (Classics)
  • 2006: 1950–1951 (Classics)
  • 2006: Ain't Nobody's Business (SnapperLive)
  • 2008: Live at the 1972 Monterey Jazz Festival (Monterey Jazz Festival)
  • 2009: Doctor Blues Blues Boulevard
  • 2009: Olympia Concert (CD Baby)
  • 2010: Live 59


  • 2003: 20th Century Jazz Masters: Mel Tormé/Jimmy Witherspoon/Carmen McRae/Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan
  • 2003: Jazz Casual - Jimmy Rushing / Jimmy Witherspoon
  • 2009: Goin' Down Blues



  1. ^ a b Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music (1st ed.). Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 181. ISBN 1-904041-96-5. 
  2. ^ a b c d "About The Spoon". Official Spoon. Archived from the original on 2007-09-16. Retrieved 2007-12-08. 
  3. ^ Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. p. 13. ISBN 1-85868-255-X. 
  4. ^ Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues - From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. p. 192. ISBN 1-85868-255-X. 
  5. ^ a b "Spoon's Discography". Official Spoon. Archived from the original on 2007-09-16. Retrieved 2007-12-08. 
  6. ^ Doc Rock. "The Dead Rock Stars Club 1996 - 1997". Thedeadrockstarsclub.com. Retrieved 2015-08-30. 
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 774. ISBN 0-89820-155-1. 
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1996). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-1995. Record Research. p. 490. 
  9. ^ "Jazz Casual - Jimmy Witherspoon | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. 2003-12-02. Retrieved 2015-08-30. 

External links[edit]