The Blues Blaster ; Jimmy McCracklin©2004JCMarion

Jimmy McCracklin was born James David Walker in St. Louis, Missouri on August 13, 1921.beginning in the early nineteen thirties and into the forties, Walker was a professional boxer in the Midwest. Not getting anywhere in the ring he did a tour of military service during WWII and then he turned to music on piano and vocals, and as Jimmy McCracklin made his first recordings with others in 1945 in Los Angeles. His early sessions were recorded for the small independent label Globe Records. "Miss mattie Left Me" / "Mean Mistreated Lover" on #102, "Highway 101" / "Baby Don't You Want To Go" on #104, and "Achin' Heart" / "Street Loafin' Woman" on #109. Little resulted from those records and two years later in Oakland he recorded for the Cavatone label with "Railroad Blues" on #130, and "Bad Luck And Trouble" on #251 (these two songs were re-issued on Aladdin #3089. In 1948 in Oakland Jimmy organized a combo that would carry the name for most of his career - Jimmy McCracklin & His Blues Blasters.

Two sides for the Down Town label - "Blues Blasters Shuffle" on #2023, and "Low Down Mood" / "She's My Baby" on #2027, featured Robert Kelton on guitar and "Little Red" on drums. Then it was to the J&M Fullbright label in Oakland for an interesting record - "Rock And Rye parts 1 and 2" on #124. For the rest of 1948 and most of 1949, McCracklin made a series of records for the Trilon label in San Francisco and then moved to the big time as far as West Coast independent labels were concerned when he began to record for the Bihari Brothers and their labels Modern and RPM.In 1950 however Modern did something a bit strange, releasing two sides by McCracklin one week apart. "Beer Drinking Woman" and "Up And Down Blues" on #722 was out on March 4, 1950 while on March 11 #728 featuring the tunes "Deceiving Blues" and "I Think My Time Is Near".In June of the year "Bad Health Blues" and "Gotta Cut Out" was released on #741.

In 1951 McCracklin's Blues Blasters consisted of Joe Conwright and Charles Sutter on saxes, Lafayette Thomas on guitar, Joe Toussaint on bass, and "San Francisco Jeff" on drums. In January of 1951 Swing Time Records announces the signing of Jimmy McCracklin and his band to that label. The first Swing Time release "Looking For A Woman" gets good airplay in the bay area and in Southern California. In April McCracklin and his band do good business at Jack's Basket Room on Central Avenue in Watts. "True Love Blues" and "I'm Gonna Have My Fun" on #264 is released in late May after Jimmy's biggest seller to date. Off the strength of "Looking For A Woman" Aladdin Records re-releases a side originally recorded for Cavatone Records in 1947. In July #286 features a sequel to McCracklin's big seller called "I Found That Woman" with "Blues For The People" on the flip side. "Rockin Man" on #270 and "That's Life" on #285 despite the numbered sequence, are released in late 1951.

In early 1952 Jimmy McCracklin and his band hit the road. They do a two week stay at the Bronze Peacock in Houston, Texas, with Willie Mae Thornton, Billy Wright, and Marie Adams. The owner of the nightclub in Houston, Don Robey, must have liked what he heard because later in the year Jimmy and his combo are now recording for the Peacock label. "My Days Are Limited" and "She's Gone" are released on Peacock #1605 in August of the year. "My Days Are Limited" continues to sell in San Francisco where McCracklin has a base of loyal listeners. He spends the rest of the year touring Texas and the Southwest in a series of one nighters. "Share And Share Alike"/ "She Felt Too Good" is on #1615, starts out slowly but continues to build and becomes one of Jimmy's biggest sellers. "The Cheater" and "My Story" are out on #1639 late in the year. In early 1954 Jimmy McCracklin is back on the West Coast and back with Modern Records.

In March "Blues Blasters Boogie" and "The Panic's On" is released on #926. Later in the year "Give My Heart A Break" is released on #934. In August Peacock re-releases "The Cheater". Late in the year "Please Forgive Me Baby" is on Modern #951. In August of 1955 "Gonna Tell Your Mother" and "That Ain't Right" is released on #967. In February of 1956, well into his second decade as a R & B recording artist, Jimmy McCracklin has a new record on the Hollywood label. It is "It's All Right" / "Fare You Well" on #1054. In the spring of the year, Irma Records, a new West Coast label run by Isaac Neal Jr. and assisted by long time A & R man Bob Geddins announces the signing of Jimmy McCracklin & His Blues Blasters. In August "I Wanna Make Love To You" and "You're The One" are released on Irma #102. Late in the year "Farewell" and "Take A Chance" are out on Irma #103. The band continues to be a decent draw on the road despite its lack of a big selling record. In the spring of 1957 "I'm The One" for Irma on #107 is a good seller in San Francisco (the flip is "Savoy Jump"). In May McCracklin does a week at the 5-4 Ballroom in Los Angeles with The Hamptones and Don & Dewey. In June Jimmy and his band join Lowell Fulson and his combo for a tour of dates throughout the Southwest. Late in the year "Beer Tavern Girl" and "Love For You" is out on Irma #109.

Early in 1958, "The Walk" and "I'm To Blame" is released by McCracklin's new record label Checker on #885. Distributors originally were pitching "Blame" but soon "The Walk" begins to sell. Through the first three months of the year it becomes apparent that after all these years Jimmy McCracklin has finally produced a top seller on the national charts. It begins to sell heavily in all markets across the country, and helped by Chess Records national distribution it soon becomes a monster of a hit. The heavy thumping dance tune is soon everywhere on the radio and Dick Clark on ABC television's "American Bandstand" features the record to a great reception on this most important media outlet for sales and airplay. Soon Jimmy and The Blues Blasters appear live on the show and play their dance hit. The next release from Checker by McCracklin is "Get Tough" and "Everybody Rock" on #893. Peacock jumps into the action with a release of old McCracklin tunes - "The Swinging Thing" and "I Need Your Loving" on #1683. Riding out the success of "The Walk", Jimmy could not duplicate the big seller and soon early in 1959 he moves across town in Chicago to Mercury Records. In February of the year "The Wobble" and "With Your Love" on Mercury #71412 hits the street. "The Georgia Slop" and "Chicken Scratch" is released later in the year by Mercury on #71415. Jimmy has two tunes on a new Mercury LP called "Newies But Goodies".

Moving into the new decade McCracklin decides to form his own record company in 1961 called Art-Tone Records. He had a big hit with "Just Got To Know" on #825. The flip side is "The Drag". Later on in the decade he records for Imperial, and one of his songs "Tramp" is recorded by Otis Redding and Carla Thomas and scores big on the national R & B charts. He also had some success with the songs "Think", "Every Night And Every Day", and "My Answer". On into the eighties and nineties, McCracklin records albums for Stax and Bullseye Blues among other labels and has albums of his earlier sides released on compilation CDs that expose his work to a whole new generation. Jimmy takes his place as a most important performer in the musical history of these United States.

There are a number of CDs that define the fifty plus years of Jimmy McCracklin's work in the Rhythm & Blues field going back to his very start. Some of the best are -

"1945 - 1948" on Jazz Melodie Classics showcasing his earliest work for bay area labels such as Globe, Down Town, and Trilon.

"The Modern Records Recordings" volumes 1 and 2 on Ace (U.K.) from the early 50s.

"Every Night Every Day" for Imperial

"High On The Blues" covers his records for the Stax label.

"My Story" and "Taste Of The Blues" both for Bullseye Blues in the early 1990s

"Tell It To The Judge" on Gunsmoke from 1999

"The Blues Blasters" for P-Vine (Japanese import) from 2003 includes some sides for Peacock

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