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Elmore James

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Elmore James (Elmore Brooks, Richland, Mississippi, 27th January 1918 – Chicago, Illinois, 24th May 1963) was an American blues singer and guitarist. He was known as “The King of the Slide Guitar”.

James was born fifty miles north of Jackson (not to be confused with another Richland just south of Jackson). He began playing as a teen, under the names “Cleanhead” and “Joe Willie James”, alongside musicians such as the first Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin’ Wolf, and Robert Johnson. During World War II James joined the United States Navy and was stationed in Guam.

Upon his discharge James returned to central Mississippi and eventually settled in Canton. He began recording with Trumpet Records in nearby Jackson in January 1951, first as sideman to the second Sonny Boy Williamson and others, then debuting as a session leader in August with what became his signature song, “Dust My Broom”. It was a surprise R&B hit in 1952 and turned James into a star. His “I Believe” was another hit a year later. During the 1950s he recorded for the Bihari Brothers’ Flair and Modern labels, as well as for Chess Records. His backing musicians were known as the Broomdusters. In 1959 he began recording what are perhaps his best sides for Bobby Robinson’s Fire Records label. These include “The Sky Is Crying” (credited to Elmo James and His Broomdusters), “Stranger Blues”, “Look On Yonder Wall”, “Done Somebody Wrong”, and “Shake Your Moneymaker”, all of which are among the most famous of blues recordings.

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