Jimmy Witherspoon

Jimmy Witherspoon (August 8, 1920 - September 18, 1997) was an American blues singer. James John (Jimmy) Witherspoon, also known by the nickname “Spoon”, was a versatile "blues shouter" who achieved commercial success and critical acclaim in the genres of blues, jazz, and rhythm and blues. His 1947 recording “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” was a hit in 1949 and became his signature song. His date of birth is usually given as August 8, 1923, but some sources give the birth year as 1920, and more than one source gives the birth date as August 18, 1921, attributing the information to his son. Since he may have run away from home to Los Angeles, California, as early as 1935, the earlier dates seem more plausible. In a 1996 interview, he gave his age as seventy-four, which also corresponds with the 1921 date. Jimmy Witherspoon was born in Gurdon (Clark County) Arkansas to Leonard Witherspoon, a Missouri Pacific Railroad brakeman, and Eva Tatum Witherspoon, a church pianist. The family was devoutly religious. His parents were members of the choir at their Baptist church. He didn't pursue music professionally until after his stint in the Merchant Marines in World War II. On his return to the Unites States in 1944, he replaced Walter Brown in Jay McShann's band, and performed with Big Joe Turner and T-Bone Walker. Witherpoon's first hit record was "Ain't Nobody's Business", which he followed in 1949 with a reworking of the Leroy Carr song "In the Evening When the Sun Goes Down". His hit "Ain't Nobody's Business" was one of the biggest records of the era, and stayed on the Billboard charts for 34 weeks. Spoon made at least 200 recordings, and was one of the few true giants of the post-war blues boom. Witherspoon recorded for a variety of labels through the 1950s, including cornerstone sides with Swingtime, Federal, Chess, RCA, and even a Dixieland session with The Wilbur de Paris New Orleans Jazz Band for Atlantic in 1956. His long career included performances on jazz stages around the world, from Carnegie Hall to the Newport Jazz Festival, touring Japan with Count Basie, and European tours with Buck Clayton's All Stars. Witherspoon managed to span the worlds of blues, R&B, and jazz with his deep baritone voice and unique style. Witherspoon died September 18, 1997 in Los Angeles, California. Spoon first attracted attention singing with Teddy Weatherford's band in Calcutta, India, which made regular radio broadcasts over the U. S. Armed Forces Radio Service during World War II. Witherspoon made his first records with Jay McShann's band in 1945. In 1949, recording under his own name with the McShann band, he had his first hit, "Ain't Nobody's Business,"[2] a song which came to be regarded as his signature tune. In 1950 he had hits with two more songs closely identified with him: "No Rollin' Blues", "Big Fine Girl", as well as "Failing By Degrees" and "New Orleans Woman" recorded with the Gene Gilbeaux Orchestra which included Herman Washington and Don Hill on the Modern Records label. These were recorded from a live performance on May 10, 1949 at a "Just Jazz" concert Pasadena, CA sponsored by Gene Norman. Another classic Witherspoon composition is "Times Gettin' Tougher Than Tough". Witherspoon's style of blues - that of the "blues shouter" - became unfashionable in the mid-1950s, but he returned to popularity with his 1959 album, Jimmy Witherspoon at the Monterey Jazz Festival, which featured Roy Eldridge, Woody Herman, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Earl Hines and Mel Lewis, among others. He later recorded with Gerry Mulligan, Leroy Vinnegar, Richard "Groove" Holmes and T-Bone Walker. Tours and successes In 1961 he toured Europe with Buck Clayton and returned to the UK on many occasions, featuring on a mid-sixties live UK recording Spoon Sings and Swings (1966) with tenor sax player Dick Morrissey's quartet. In 1970, he appeared on Brother Jack McDuff's London Blue Note recording To Seek a New Home together with British jazz musicians, including Dick Morrissey, again, and Terry Smith. In the 1970s he also recorded the album Guilty! (later released on CD as Black & White Blues) with Eric Burdon and featuring Ike White & the San Quentin Prison Band. He then toured with a band of his own featuring Robben Ford and Russ Ferrante. A recording from this period, Spoonful, featured 'Spoon accompanied by Robben Ford, Joe Sample, Cornell Dupree, Thad Jones and Bernard Purdie. He continued performing and recording into the 1990s. Other performers with whom Witherspoon recorded include Jimmy Rowles, Earl "Fatha" Hines, Vernon Alley, Mel Lewis, Teddy Edwards, Gerald Wiggins, John Clayton, Paul Humphrey, Pepper Adams, Kenny Burrell, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Jimmy Smith, Long John Baldry, Junior Mance, Ellington bassist Jimmy Woode, Kenny Clarke, Gerry Mulligan, Jim Mullen, Count Basie, Van Morrison, Dutch Swing College Band, Gene Gilbeaux and others. Acting In the 1995 film Georgia, Witherspoon portrayed a traveling, gun-collecting blues singer, Trucker, who has a relationship with the troubled character Sadie, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.