Elmore James

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About Elmore James

Blues-rock pioneer Elmore James made a big splash over a short career. Born Elmore Brooks in Richland, Mississippi, in 1918, he began playing a one-stringed guitar at age 12. During the '30s, under the influence of Kokomo Arnold, Tampa Red, and Robert Johnson, he formed the hard-charging Broomdusters band, performing alongside Sonny Boy Williamson both before and after James’ stints in the U.S. Navy. In 1951, on his first date as a session leader, James reimagined Johnson's languid acoustic "Dust My Broom" as a loud, upbeat electric shuffle, and its attention-grabbing opening riff heralded James's 11-year reign as "king of the slide guitar." His equally powerful voice—on signature tracks like "Shake Your Moneymaker," the Jimi Hendrix favorite "Bleeding Heart," and the future Allman Brothers Band staple "One Way Out"—anticipated the screaming passion of Chicago blues singers Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. James' career stalled when he ran afoul of the musicians' union; he died of a heart attack in 1963 on the verge of a comeback.

Richland, MS, United States
January 27, 1918
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