Air Week: January 20-26, 2020

Elmore James – 1951-55

Elmore James never tried to have crossover success. He was a bluesman through and through; an ambassador of the Mississippi Delta Blues with a modern, 1950s electric twist. Elmore’s blues was as pure as his ambitions when starting out as a sideman for now legendary blues harpist Sonny Boy Williamson II. James played on several Williamson sessions held in 1951 at Trumpet Records in Jackson, MS, until he was coaxed into playing the Robert Johnson tune, “Dust My Broom” in August. Trumpet gave James one side of the original 78 RPM release and in early 1952, “Dust My Broom” became a national R&B hit! Ike Turner, who was scouting for the Bihari Brothers of LA’s Modern Records, found Elmore and got him signed to a four year deal with the Biharis. They issued his first record on their Meteor subsidiary and “I Believe,” a reworking of “Dust My Broom,” also became a top 10 national hit. Elmore James wouldn’t score another hit record until 1960, but in those years in-between, James issued some incredible and highly influential blues sides, featuring his legendary slide guitar style. James would go on to inspire The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, early Fleetwood Mac and others, but would not live to see it. This week, Matt The Cat dusts off some prime Elmore James 78s from several labels and in many blues styles. Many of these records built off the original “Dust My Broom” guitar lick, but they are also good enough to stard firmly on their own.

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