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Jazz Gillum


Jazz Gillum Biography

Next to John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson, no harmonica player was as popular or as much in demand on recording sessions during the '30s as Jazz Gillum. His high, reedy sound meshed perfectly on dozens of hokum sides on the Bluebird label, both as a sideman and as a leader.br /br /Born in Indianola, Mississippi (B.B. King's birthplace as well) in 1904, Gillum was evidently teaching himself how to play harmonica by the tender age of six. After running away from home in 1911 to live with relatives in Charleston, Mississippi, Jazz spent the next dozen or so years working a day job and spending his weekends playing for tips on local streetcorners. When he visited Chicago in 1923, he found the environment very much to his liking and put down roots there. br /br /There he met guitarist Big Bill Broonzy and the two of them started working club dates around the city as a duo. By 1934, Gillum started popping up on recording dates for ARC and later Bluebird, RCA Victor's budget label. This association would prove to be a lasting as Chicago producer Lester Melrose frequently called on Gillum as a sideman -- as well as cutting sides on his own -- as part of the "Bluebird beat" house band. His career seemed to screech to a halt when the label folded in the late '40s and aside from a Memphis Slim session in 1961, he seems to have been largely inactive throughout the '50s until his death from a gunshot wound as a result of an argument in 1966. ~ Cub Koda, All Music Guide


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