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Skip James

SKIP JAMES (1902 1969)

Born Nehemiah Curtis James in the Mississippi Delta. Spent his early adult life as a bootlegger during the Prohibition years and earned the nickname "Skip" for not sticking around one place for very long. A Jackson, Mississippi music contest landed him a record deal but the timing of his first major release couldn't have been worse as the grips of the Great Depression strangled the US economy. What set him apart from others was his distinctive finger picking techniques and his open minor tuning. His second sessions featured him on piano on which he was equally proficient. His string of 1931 78s on the race label Paramount Records sold poorly and few copies survived.

The story has been told countless times about the white college boys who set out in the early 1960s to find blues artists who had long been forgotten since thier early Library of Congress era recordings. John Fahey and friends found Skip James in a hospital in Tunica, Mississippi in 1964 more than thirty years after his intitial musical offerings.

Skip's career was absorbed by Dick Waterman as part of his Avalon Productions management stable. Waterman himself went south and ferreted out the great Son House. Skip appeared at the much heralded 1964 Newport Folk Festival which featured the reunion of many of the rediscovered bluesmen. His I'm So Glad would earn him international recognition when it was covered by the British electric blues legends, Cream. It would earn him his first royalties prior to his 1969 passing.

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