Yank Rachell

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James "Yank" Rachell
A photograph of Rachell performing in Hamburg, Germany, in February 1978.
Background information
Birth name James Rachell
Born (1910-03-16)March 16, 1910
Brownsville, Tennessee, United States
Died April 9, 1997(1997-04-09) (aged 87)
Indianapolis, Indiana, United States[1]
Genres Country blues,[2] blues
Instruments Mandolin, guitar
Years active 1929–1997
Associated acts Sleepy John Estes
Hammie Nixon
Taj Mahal

James "Yank" Rachell (March 16, 1910 – April 9, 1997) was an American country blues musician, dubbed an "elder statesman of the blues."[2][3]


Born James Rachell, his career as a performer spanned nearly seventy years, and was often teamed with the guitarist and singer Sleepy John Estes. He grew up in Brownsville, Tennessee, but in 1958 moved north to Indianapolis during the American folk music revival. He recorded for Delmark Records and Blue Goose Records. Though a capable guitarist and singer, he was better known as a master of the blues mandolin; he had bought his first mandolin at age 8, with a pig his family had given him to raise.[3] "She Caught the Katy," which he wrote with Taj Mahal, is considered a blues standard.[3]

In his later years he appeared in filmmaker Terry Zwigoff's 1985 documentary about fellow musician Howard Armstrong, and was a featured performer with John Sebastian and the J-Band.[4]

By the mid 1990s, Rachell and Henry Townsend and were the only blues musicians still active whose careers started in the 1920s.[5] In later years he suffered from arthritis which shortened his playing sessions, though he still recorded an album just before his death, Too Hot For the Devil.[3]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Doc Rock. "The Dead Rock Stars Club 1996 - 1997". Thedeadrockstarsclub.com. Retrieved 2015-10-06. 
  2. ^ a b Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music (1st ed.). Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 181. ISBN 1-904041-96-5. 
  3. ^ a b c d Ratliff, Ben (20 April 1997). "Yank Rachell, 87, Mandolinist And Elder Statesman of the Blues". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 May 2010. 
  4. ^ Norris, Sharon, Black America Series: Haywood County Tennessee, Arcadia Publishing
  5. ^ Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues - From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. pp. 177–178. ISBN 1-85868-255-X. 

External links[edit]