Skip James

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Nehemiah "Skip" James was born on Woodbine Plantation outside Bentonia, Mississippi on the ninth of June, 1902. Raised on the plantation Skip was interested in music early and had learned guitar by age 8. After learning piano in high school he dropped out to hobo around and began earning a living from music around 1918. He worked parties, roadhouses, jukes, and barrelhouses in the South and Midwest, notably Memphis into the 1920's. He attended divinity school and became active in ministry work from the mid-twenties. He was ordained a Baptist minister in 1932 supporting himself preaching and playing churches and concerts in the forties. James was ordained a Methodist minister in 1946 and worked outside music preaching until 1964 when he started working the folk festival and college circuit riding the blues revival wave.

An influence to Robert Johnson, Skip James recorded 17 selections for Paramount in 1931. His surviving works of this time demonstrate a masterful and unique style on both guitar and piano. Skip's haunting delivery was created by his falsetto singing over a rythymic and erratic instrumental accompaniment. The Depression suppressed his record sales and left him in obscurity until rediscovered in 1964. Illness curtailed Skip James' performing career in 1968 and he died of cancer on October 3, 1969.


Some of his songs include:

All Night Long, Crow Jane, Cypress Grove Blues, Drunken Spree, Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues, I'm So Glad, My Gal, Special Rider Blues, and 22-20 Blues.

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Joel Snow
Created February 15, 1997
Revised February 15, 1997