Yank Rachell

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Yank Rachell
Rachell performing in Hamburg, Germany, February 1978
Rachell performing in Hamburg, Germany, February 1978
Background information
Birth nameJames A. Rachel[1]
Born(1910-03-16)March 16, 1910
near Brownsville, Tennessee, U.S.
Died(1997-04-09)April 9, 1997 (aged 94)
Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.[2]
GenresCountry blues,[3] blues
InstrumentsMandolin, guitar
Years active1929–1997
Associated actsSleepy John Estes
Hammie Nixon
Taj Mahal

Yank Rachell (born James A. Rachel; March 16, 1903[1] or 1910 – April 9, 1997) was an American country blues musician who has been called an "elder statesman of the blues".[3][4] His career as a performer spanned nearly seventy years, from the late 1920s to the 1990s.


Rachell grew up in Brownsville, Tennessee. There is uncertainty over his birth year; although his gravestone shows 1910, researchers Bob Eagle and Eric LeBlanc conclude, on the basis of a 1920 census entry, that he was probably born in 1903.[1]

In 1958, during the American folk music revival, he moved to Indianapolis. He recorded for Delmark Records and Blue Goose Records. He was a capable guitarist and singer but was better known as a master of the blues mandolin. He bought his first mandolin at age eight, in a trade for a pig his family had given him to raise.[4] He often performed with the guitarist and singer Sleepy John Estes.[5] "She Caught the Katy," which he wrote with Taj Mahal, is considered a blues standard.[4]

He appeared in the 1985 documentary film Louie Bluie (directed by Terry Zwigoff), about the musician Howard Armstrong. Rachell performed with John Sebastian and the J-Band in the film.[6]

By the mid-1990s, Rachell and Henry Townsend were the only blues musicians still active whose careers started in the 1920s.[7] Late in his life Rachell suffered from arthritis, which shortened his playing sessions, but he recorded an album just before his death, Too Hot for the Devil.[4]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues – A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara: Praeger Publishers. pp. 240–241. ISBN 978-0313344237.
  2. ^ Doc Rock. "The Dead Rock Stars Club 1996–1997". Thedeadrockstarsclub.com. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  3. ^ a b Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music. Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 181. ISBN 1-904041-96-5.
  4. ^ a b c d Ratliff, Ben (April 20, 1997). "Yank Rachell, 87, Mandolinist and Elder Statesman of the Blues". The New York Times. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
  5. ^ Giles Oakley (1997). The Devil's Music. Da Capo Press. p. 180. ISBN 978-0-306-80743-5.
  6. ^ Norris, Sharon. Haywood County Tennessee. Black America Series. Arcadia Publishing, 2000, ISBN 978-0738506050.
  7. ^ Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books. pp. 177–178. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.

External links[edit]