Jimmy Yancey

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Jimmy Yancey
Birth name James Edwards Yancey
Born (1894-02-20)February 20, 1894
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died September 17, 1951(1951-09-17) (aged 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 – September 17, 1951)[1][2][3] was an African American boogie-woogie pianist, composer, and lyricist. One reviewer noted him as "one of the pioneers of this raucous, rapid-fire, eight-to-the-bar piano style".[2]


Yancey was born in Chicago in (depending on the source) 1894[2] or 1898.[3] His older brother, Alonzo Yancey (1894–1944) was also a pianist, while 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 piano at 15, and by 1915 had become a noted pianist and was already influencing younger musicians, including Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons.[1][2]

While he played in a boogie-woogie style, with a strong-repeated figure in the left hand and melodic decoration in the right, 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.[4] Yancey favored keys—such as E flat and A flat—that were atypical for barrelhouse blues.[1] Distinctively, he ended many pieces in the key of E-flat, even if he had played in a different key right up to the ending.

Although influential from a young age, Yancey did not record at all through his early career, performing only at house parties and clubs. His first recordings in 1939 created a considerable stir in blues and jazz circles.[5]

While most of his recordings were solo, later in his career he and his wife Estelle Yancey recorded together (she as a vocalist) under the name 'Jimmy and Mama Yancey'.[4] They appeared in concert at Carnegie Hall in 1948,[1] and recorded their first album in 1951—released by Atlantic Records the following year.[1]

During World War I, Yancey played baseball for the Chicago All-Americans, a Negro league baseball team. Throughout his life, he held on to his job as a groundskeeper for the Chicago White Sox.[4]

Yancey died of a stroke secondary to diabetes in Chicago on September 17, 1951.[3] He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.[3]



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


  1. ^ a b c d e "Biography by Chris Kelsey". Allmusic.com. Retrieved August 11, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music (1st ed.). Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 165. ISBN 1-904041-96-5. 
  3. ^ a b c d [If older brother, Alonzo Yancey was born in 1894, it would appear that Jim Yancey's correct year of birth would be 1898] Thedeadrockstarsclub.com - accessed August 2011
  4. ^ a b c Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues - From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. pp. 193–194. ISBN 1-85868-255-X. 
  5. ^ Olderen, Martin van, The Immortal Jimmy Yancey 1898-1951, liner notes, Oldie Blues, OL 2802, 1974

External links[edit]