Jimmy Yancey

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Jimmy Yancey
Birth name James Edwards Yancey
Born (1894-02-20)February 20, 1894 or 1901
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died September 17, 1951(1951-09-17) (age 50-57)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Genres Boogie-woogie
Instruments Piano
Years active 1939–1950
Labels Atlantic
Associated acts Jimmy and Mama Yancey

James Edwards "Jimmy" Yancey (February 20, 1894 or 1901[1] – September 17, 1951)[2][3][4] was an African-American boogie-woogie pianist, composer, and lyricist. One reviewer described him as "one of the pioneers of this raucous, rapid-fire, eight-to-the-bar piano style".[3]

Biography[edit]

Yancey was born in Chicago. There is uncertainty over his birth year: at different times he stated 1900 and 1903,[1] and other sources give 1894[3] or 1898.[4] Researchers Bob Eagle and Eric LeBlanc suggest 1901.[1]

His older brother, Alonzo Yancey (1897–1944),[1] was also a pianist, and their father was a vaudeville guitarist and singer. By age ten, Yancey had toured across the United States as a tap dancer and singer, and by twenty he had toured throughout Europe. He began teaching himself to play the piano at the age of 15, and by 1915 had become a noted pianist and was already influencing younger musicians, including Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons.[2][3]

He played in a boogie-woogie style, with a strong-repeated figure in the left hand and melodic decoration in the right, but his playing was delicate and subtle rather than hard driving. He popularized the left-hand figure that became known as the "Yancey bass", later used in Pee Wee Crayton's "Blues After Hours", Guitar Slim's "The Things That I Used to Do", and many other songs.[5] Yancey favored keys—such as E-flat and A-flat—that were atypical for barrelhouse blues.[2] Distinctively, he ended many pieces in the key of E-flat, even if he had played in a different key until the ending.

Although influential from an early age, Yancey did not record at all in his early career, performing only at house parties and clubs. His first recordings, in 1939, created a considerable stir in blues and jazz circles.[6]

He made most of his recordings solo, but later in his career he recorded with his wife, Estelle Yancey, singing, as Jimmy and Mama Yancey.[5] They appeared in concert at Carnegie Hall in 1948,[2] and recorded their first album in 1951, released by Atlantic Records the following year.[2]

During World War I, Yancey played baseball for the Chicago All-Americans, a Negro league baseball team. From 1925 to 1950,[1] he worked as as a groundskeeper for the Chicago White Sox.[5]

Yancey died of a diabetes-induced stroke in Chicago on September 17, 1951.[4] He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.[4]

Discography[edit]

Singles[edit]

Year Title Label and Number
1939 Beezum Blues Solo Art, unissued
1939 Big Bear Train Solo Art, unissued
1939 Janie's Joys Solo Art, unissued
1939 Jimmy’s Stuff Solo Art 12008
1939 How Long Blues Solo Art, unissued
1939 How Long Blues No. 2 Solo Art, unissued
1939 Lean Bacon Solo Art, unissued
1939 LaSalle Street Breakdown Solo Art, unissued
1939 Lucille's Lament Solo Art, unissued
1939 P.L.K. Special Solo Art, unissued
1939 Rolling the Stone Solo Art, unissued
1939 South Side Stuff Solo Art, unissued
1939 Steady Rock Blues Solo Art, unissued
1939 Two o'Clock Blues Solo Art, unissued
1939 The Fives Solo Art 12008
1939 Yancy Getaway Solo Art, unissued
1939 Yancy Limited Solo Art, unissued
1939 Five o'Clock Blues Victor 26590-A
1939 Slow and Easy Blues Victor 26591-B
1939 State Street Special Victor 26589-A
1939 Tell 'Em About Me Victor 26590-B
1939 The Mellow Blues Victor 26591-A
1939 Yancy Stomp Victor 26589-B
1940 Bear Trap Blues Vocalion 05490
1940 Crying in My Sleep Bluebird B-8630
1940 Death Letter Blues Bluebird B-8630
1940 I Love to Hear My Baby Call My Name Gannet 5138
1940 Old Quaker Blues Vocalion 05490
1940 35th and Dearborn Victor 27238-B
1940 Yancey's Bugle Call Victor 27238-A
1943 Boodlin' Session 10-001
1943 Jimmy's Rocks Session 10-001
1943 Yancey's Mixture Session, unissued

Selected albums[edit]

  • 1974, The Immortal Jimmy Yancey 1898–1951, Oldie Blues, OL 2802
  • 1980, The Immortal Jimmy Yancey 1898–1951, vol. 2, Oldie Blues, OL 2813

Legacy and influence[edit]

In 1973 the Dutch composer Louis Andriessen premiered On Jimmy Yancey, a two-movement work scored for nine wind instruments, piano and double bass. Andriessen observes that Yancey was not merely one of the pioneers of the boogie-woogie piano style. "The leaping left hand of Ragtime changed into a monotonous repeating train-like figure, which in fact was more melodious than the Ragtime bass. In the first movement, three Yancey themes are quoted; the second is a kind of In Memoriam. Both movements end with a typical boogie-woogie lick, with which Yancey unexpectedly ends all his recordings. He probably did this at a sign from the producer, when the three minutes which a 78 side could hold were up, because boogie-woogie pianists habitually played for hours on end in the bars to entertain the white bourgeoisie."[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues - A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara: Praeger Publishers. p. 63. ISBN 978-0313344237. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Kelsey, Chris. "Biography". Allmusic.com. Retrieved August 11, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music. Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 165. ISBN 1-904041-96-5. 
  4. ^ a b c d Thedeadrockstarsclub.com - accessed August 2011
  5. ^ a b c Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books. pp. 193–194. ISBN 1-85868-255-X. 
  6. ^ Olderen, Martin van (1974). Liner notes for The Immortal Jimmy Yancey 1898–1951. Oldie Blues, OL 2802.
  7. ^ Andriessen, L., On Jimmy Yancey (London: Boosey & Hawkes, 1973).

External links[edit]