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About Jimmy Nolen

b. 3 April 1934, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA, d. 18 December 1983, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. The inventor of the Chicken Scratch and thus the father of funk guitar, Nolen was the archetypal sideman who also had a fitful solo recording career. After learning the violin, he took up the guitar at 14, inspired by T-Bone Walker. Singer Jimmy Wilson saw him in a Tulsa club and brought him back to Los Angeles, where Nolen began his recording career backing trumpeter Monte Easter and Chuck Higgins, and under his own name for John Fullbrights Elko label. In the autumn of 1956, he recorded three sessions for Federal, from which six singles were released to little effect. During this time, he also worked with Johnny Otis, playing on many sessions for Otis Dig label and recording some sides of his own. He remained with Otis for a couple of years and played on Ma, Hes Making Eyes At Me and Willie And The Hand Jive.

In 1959, Nolen signed with Specialty Records subsidiary Fidelity, from which just one single emerged. Much of the early 60s was spent backing harmonica player George Smith before joining James Browns band, where in February 1965 his guitar licks became the defining element of Papas Got A Brand New Bag. Apart from a two-year break between 1970 and 1972, when he played with Maceo And The Kings Men, Nolen remained with Brown for the rest of his career, which ended suddenly with a fatal heart attack while the band was in Atlanta, Georgia.