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NEWS --  Jimmy Dawkins dies at age 76

West Side Chicago guitar great Jimmy Dawkins passes away at age 76

RIP James Henry Dawkins - October 24, 1936 to April 10, 2013

Jimmy Dawkins
photo: Jennifer Noble

Wake: Tuesday, April 16, Noon – 6 p.m.

Funeral services:  Wed., April 17, 10 a.m.

Where: House of Branch, 3125 W. Roosevelt Rd., Chicago

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.

Jimmy Dawkins by Dianne
photo: Dianne Dunklau

 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).

Jimmy Dawkins Earwig CD art

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:
Jimmy Dawkins "Serves Me Right To Suffer" (click here) 
Wild Child Butler "Hippies Playground" (click here) 
Johnny Young & Big Walter "Ring Around My Heart" (click here) 
Carey Bell "Sad Dreams" (click here) 
Jimmy Dawkins with Big Voice Odom on vocals "Welfare Blues" (click here)

Remembering Jimmy Dawkins

By Kevin Johnson of Delmark Records

Jimmy Dawkins Delmark CD

We'll miss you dearly, Mr. Dawkins!  He was my personal favorite Chicago blues guitarist -- a true original and a one-of-a-kind artist whose distinctive guitar style is instantly recognizable. His chilling killer tone, his deep, complex, innovative solos and his intense and menacing playing have made him revered amongst his peers, which also won him devoted diehard cult-like fans around the world.

Not only did he play with an absolutely devastating heavy West Side Chicago blues guitar attack, he also played with taste, restraint subtle beauty and feeling. He had impeccable timing, knowing when to lay back and not force the music. He was a unique and deep songwriter, and also had an under-appreciated, laid back but intense vocal style. Although Jimmy’s no-nonsense, menacing, and intense playing is definitely not for the casual listener, blues diehards and all guitar players should experience the Dawkins guitar tone, timing, and delivery -- DEEP BLUES WITH A FEELING!!  As Jimmy once sang, “I’m all for business baby, I ain’t got no time for play!”

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