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Elmore James

Guitarist Elmore James established himself in Chicago in 1952, forming his legendary band the Broomdusters. While never attaining the fame of fellow Mississippi expatriates Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, James became one of the city's most influential guitarists. He recorded for a variety of labels throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, leaving a legacy of slow blues, boogies, and full-fledged rave ups that dominate the musical vocabulary of Chicago blues. His slide guitar technique and signature riffs have become mainstays and are fundamental studies for any guitarist attempting this style.

Elmore James was born on January 27, 1918 in Richland, Mississippi, to Leola Brooks. (His true father is not known). He was given the surname of his stepfather, Joe Willie James, at birth. He moved around often as a child around the Delta, and regularly took time off from cotton picking to pick his “Diddley” bow, a primitive instrument involving one string nailed to the side of a barn. He purchased a real guitar, a $20 National, as an early teenager, and was hired playing house parties, jukes, etc. After a brief period of teaming up with his cousin, “Homesick” James Williamson, young Elmore struck out on his own for a while, playing gigs all over the Delta area, and making acquaintances with musicians such as Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, Johnny Temple, and Luther Huff.

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