Your Complete Guide to the Chicago Blues Scene
West Side Chicago guitar great Jimmy Dawkins passes away at age 76
RIP James Henry Dawkins - October 24, 1936 to April 10, 2013
By Bob Corritore
Legendary Chicago blues guitarist/singer Jimmy Dawkins passed away after a long ordeal with numerous health issues. He was 76.
Originally from Tchula, Mississippi, James Henry Dawkins moved to Chicago in 1955 and began to emerge as an in-demand session guitarist in the 1960s. He had a new, more electric approach to blues guitar than was ever heard before and it took the blues world by a storm. While making these innovative new sounds, Jimmy was simultaneously firmly rooted in the deep traditions of the blues. He was a good, understated vocalist, but his biting single string lead guitar was his strongest selling point. The nickname "Fast Fingers" was a bit of a misnomer, as his style was neither fast nor flashy, but powerful and emotional.
In 1969, thanks to his friend Magic Sam, he made his debut CD Fast Fingers for the Delmark label, which firmly established Jimmy Dawkins as an artist in his own right. He won the Grand Prix du Disque from the Hot Club de France for his debut effort. In 1971, Delmark released his second album, All For Business, which featured singer Andrew “Big Voice” Odom and Otis Rush on guitar.
Dawkins made many albums in his career for a number of labels:
Delmark, Earwig, Ichiban, Black & Blue, Excello, Evidence, JSP, Wild Dog Blues, Fedora, Storyville, and Rumble. Jimmy also recorded some brilliant backing on sessions by Johnny Young & Big Walter Horton, George "Wild Child" Butler, Carey Bell, Andrew "Blueblood" McMahon, Luther "Guitar Jr." Johnson, and others. Jimmy activated his Leric Records label in the 1980s, issuing singles by up and coming blues artists such as Nora Jean, Mojo Elem, Little Johnny Christian,Queen Sylvia Embry, Vance Kelly, and Tail Dragger (Delmark recently reissued these sides in their 2010 release Jimmy Dawkins Presents the Leric Story).
With Jimmy's passing we lose one of the great developmental stylists of contemporary Chicago blues guitar. His bold, forward- thinking sound influenced those that followed him.
Some examples of Jimmy
Dawkins music as
both a leader and as a sideman: