Yank Rachell

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James "Yank" Rachell
Rachell performing in Hamburg, Germany, 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 who has been called an "elder statesman of the blues."[2][3] His career as a performer spanned nearly seventy years, from the late 1920s to the 1990s.


Rachell grew up in Brownsville, Tennessee. 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 8, in a trade for a pig his family had given him to raise.[3] He often performed with the guitarist and singer Sleepy John Estes. "She Caught the Katy," which he wrote with Taj Mahal, is considered a blues standard.[3]

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.[4]

By the mid-1990s, Rachell and Henry Townsend were the only blues musicians still active whose careers started in the 1920s.[5] 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.[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. 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. Haywood County Tennessee. Black America Series. Arcadia Publishing.
  5. ^ 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]