Jimmy Witherspoon

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Jimmy Witherspoon
Jimmy Witherspoon.jpg
Witherspoon in June 1976
Background information
Born (1920-08-08)August 8, 1920
Gurdon, Arkansas, U.S.
Died September 18, 1997(1997-09-18) (aged 77)
Genres Blues, jump blues[1]
Occupation(s) Singer
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1940s–1990s

James 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 in Calcutta, India, with Teddy Weatherford's band, 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 that came to be regarded as his signature tune. In 1950 he had hits with two more songs closely identified with him—"No Rollin' Blues" and "Big Fine Girl"—and also with "Failing by Degrees" and "New Orleans Woman", recorded with the Gene Gilbeaux Orchestra (which included Herman Washington and Don Hill) for Modern Records. These were recorded at a live performance on May 10, 1949, at a "Just Jazz" concert in Pasadena, California, 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 features Roy Eldridge, Woody Herman, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Earl Hines and Mel Lewis, among others.[4] Witherspoon 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, Witherspoon 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 Witherspoon 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 Witherspoon 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, and Gene Gilbeaux, among others.

Acting[edit]

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).

Death[edit]

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

Discography[edit]

Chart singles[edit]

Year Single Chart Positions
US Pop[7] US
R&B
[8]
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, recorded 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, recorded 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

DVDs[edit]

  • 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

Filmography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music. 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. p. 13. ISBN 1-85868-255-X. 
  4. ^ Russell (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. p. 192. 
  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. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research. p. 774. ISBN 0-89820-155-1. 
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1996). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942–1995. Record Research. p. 490. 
  9. ^ "Jimmy Witherspoon, Jazz Casual: Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic.com. 2003-12-02. Retrieved 2015-08-30. 

External links[edit]