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Jimmy McCracklin

A full half-century from when he started out in the blues business, Jimmy McCracklin was still touring, recording, and acting like a much younger man. In fact, he vehemently disputed his commonly accepted birth date, but since he began recording back in 1945, it seemed reasonable. McCracklin grew up in Missouri, his main influence on piano being Walter Davis (little Jimmy's dad introduced him to the veteran pianist). McCracklin was also a promising pugilist, but the blues eventually emerged victorious. After a stint in the Navy during World War II, he bid St. Louis adieu and moved to the West Coast, making his recorded debut for the Globe logo with "Miss Mattie Left Me" in 1945. On that platter, J.D. Nicholson played piano; most of McCracklin's output found him handling his own 88s.

McCracklin recorded for a daunting array of tiny labels in Los Angeles and Oakland prior to touching down with Modern in 1949-1950, Swing Time the next year, and Peacock in 1952-1954. Early in his recording career, McCracklin had Robert Kelton on guitar, but by 1951, Lafayette "Thing" Thomas was installed as the searing guitarist with McCracklin's Blues Blasters and remained invaluable to the pianist into the early '60s.

By 1954, the pianist was back with the Bihari Brothers' Modern logo and really coming into his own with a sax-driven sound. "Couldn't Be a Dream" was hilariously surreal, McCracklin detailing his night out with a woman sent straight from hell, while a 1955 session found him doubling credibly on harp.

A series of sessions for Bay Area producer Bob Geddins' Irma label in 1956 (many of which later turned up on Imperial) preceded McCracklin's long-awaited first major hit. Seldom had he written a simpler song than "The Walk," a rudimentary dance number with a good groove that Checker Records put on the market in 1958. It went Top Ten on both the R&B and pop charts, and McCracklin was suddenly rubbing elbows with Dick Clark on network TV.

The nomadic pianist left Chess after a few more 45s, pausing at Mercury (where he cut a torrid "Georgia Slop" in 1959, later revived by Big Al Downing) before returning to the hit parade with the tough R&B workout "Just Got to Know" in 1961 for Art-Tone Records. A similar follow-up, "Shame, Shame, Shame," also did well for him the next year. Those sides eventually resurfaced on Imperial, where he hit twice in 1965 with "Every Night, Every Day" (later covered by Magic Sam) and the uncompromising "Think" and "My Answer" in 1966.

McCracklin's songwriting skills shouldn't be overlooked as an integral factor in his enduring success. He penned the funky "Tramp" for guitarist Lowell Fulson and watched his old pal take it to the rarefied end of the R&B lists in 1967, only to be eclipsed by a sassy duet cover by Stax stalwarts Otis Redding and Carla Thomas a scant few months later. McCracklin made a string of LPs for Imperial, even covering "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" in 1966, and segued into the soul era totally painlessly. Latter-day discs for Bullseye Blues proved that McCracklin still packed a knockout punch from behind his piano, no matter what his birth certificate said. Jimmy McCracklin died in San Pablo, California on December 20, 2012 at the age of 91. ~ Bill Dahl
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Blues Blasters Boogie 1945-1955

Disc 1

1. Miss Mattie Left Me

2. Mean Mistreated Woman

3. Highway 101

4. Baby, Don't You Want Me To Go

5. Achin' Heart

6. Street Loafin' Woman

7. You Deceived Me

8. Ola May

9. She's A Wino

10. Rock And Rye (Pt. 1)

11. Rock And Rye (Pt. 2)

12. You Had Your Chance

13. Special For You

14. Rock And Rye

15. Miss Minnie Lee Blues

16. Playin' On Me

17. Big Foot Mama

18. Bad Luck And Trouble

19. Railroad Blues

20. Jimmy's Blues

21. Bad Condition Blues

22. Blues Blaster's Shuffle

23. Low Down Mood

24. She's My Baby

25. When I'm Gone

26. South Side Mood

Disc 2

1. Listen Woman

2. I Can't Understand Love

3. Josephine (Just Won't Let Her Go)

4. I'll Get A Break Someday

5. Love When It Rains

6. Your Heart Ain't Right

7. My Life Depends On You

8. Gonna Find Another Woman

9. I Think My Time Is Here

10. Deceivin' Blues

11. Beer Drinkin' Woman

12. Up And Down Blues

13. Just Won't Let Her Go

14. Rockin' All Day

15. Gotta Cut Out

16. You Decieved Me

17. Bad Health Blues

18. Ragged As A Mop (Hamburger Joint)

23. Looking For A Woman

24. You Don't Love Me

25. I'm Gonna Have My Fun

Disc 3

1. True Love Blues

2. Rockin' Man

3. What's Your Phone Number

4. That's Life

5. Blues For The People

6. House Rockin' Blues

7. Movin' On Down The Line

8. I Am Tired

9. My Days Are Limited

10. She's Gone

11. She Felt Too Good

12. Share And Share Alike

13. The Cheater

14. Pleasin' Papa

15. The End

16. Hear My Story

17. I Don't Want No Woman

18. Blues And Trouble

19. Hello Baby

20. We Could Make A Go I Know

21. Everytime

22. Night And Day

25. Blues Blaster's Boogie

Disc 4

1. The Panic's On

2. Darlin' Share Your Love

3. Give My Heart A Break

4. Please Forgive Me Baby

5. Couldn't Be A Dream

6. Gonna Tell Your Mother

7. That Ain't Right

10. Something About You

11. When You Was A Little Girl

12. Just Couldn't Take My Rest

13. I Told Ya Mama

14. Where I Got My Start

15. Cry On

16. Copyright On Your Love

17. Make Love To Me

18. Sue And Pat

19. Reconsider Baby

20. I Got To Know

21. Arkansas

22. You're The One

x

Track List: My Story

1. Tomorrow

2. Real Love

3. Arkansas

4. Keep It Like This

5. It's Got To Be Love

6. In The Ally

7. After Hours

8. Stuck With Loneliness

9. Mama And Papa

10. Join The Club

11. My Story

12. Just A Matter Of Time

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I THOUGHT HE WAS FANTASTIC... . . . .

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