|Birth name||James Arnold|
|Also known as||Gitfiddle Jim|
February 15, 1901|
Lovejoy's Station, Georgia, U.S.
|Died||November 8, 1968
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Instruments||Vocals, slide guitar|
James "Kokomo" Arnold (February 15, 1901 – November 8, 1968) was an American blues musician. Born in Lovejoy's Station, Georgia, he got his nickname in 1934 after releasing "Old Original Kokomo Blues" for Decca Records, a cover version of Scrapper Blackwell's blues song about the city of Kokomo, Indiana. A left-handed slide guitarist, his intense style of playing and rapid-fire vocal delivery set him apart from his contemporaries.
Arnold learned the basics of the guitar from his cousin, John Wiggs, and began playing in the early 1920s as a sideline, when he was working as a farmhand in Buffalo, New York, and as a steelworker in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1929 he moved to Chicago and ran a bootlegging business, an activity he continued until the end of Prohibition. In 1930 he moved south briefly and made his first recordings, "Rainy Night Blues" and "Paddlin' Madeline Blues", under the name Gitfiddle Jim, for the Victor label in Memphis. He soon moved back to Chicago, where he was forced to make a living as a musician after Prohibition ended in 1933. Kansas Joe McCoy heard him and introduced him to Mayo Williams, who was a producer for Decca Records.
From his first recording for Decca, on September 10, 1934, until his last, on May 12, 1938, Arnold made 88 sides, seven of which have been lost. Arnold, Peetie Wheatstraw and Bumble Bee Slim were dominant figures in Chicago blues circles of that time. Wheatstraw and Arnold, in particular, were also major influences on their contemporary, the seminal Delta blues artist Robert Johnson, and thus influenced much modern music. Johnson turned "Old Original Kokomo Blues" into "Sweet Home Chicago" and "Milk Cow Blues" into "Milkcow's Calf Blues". Another Arnold song, "Sagefield Woman Blues", introduced the phrase "dust my broom", which Johnson used as a song title.
Other notable songs include his 1934 recording of "Sissy Man Blues" with lyrics referring to bisexuality ("Lord, if you can't send me no woman, please send me some sissy man"). This song was later recorded by other blues musicians of the era, including Josh White (Pinewood Tom), George Noble and Connie McLean's Rhythm Kings.
In 1938 Arnold left the music industry and began to work in a Chicago factory. Rediscovered by blues researchers in 1962, he showed no enthusiasm for returning to music to take advantage of the resurgence of interest in the blues among young white audiences.
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- Find a Grave website, retrieved November 15, 2007