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Gifted with a striking and almost immediately identifable vocal style characterized by an amazing vibrato, J.D. Short was also a very versatile musician. He played piano, saxophone, guitar, harmonica, clarinet and drums. Growing up in the Mississippi Delta, Short learned guitar and piano. He was a frequent performer at house parties before he moved to St. Louis in the '20s. Short played with the Neckbones, Henry Spaulding, Honeyboy Edwards, Douglas Williams, and Big Joe Williams from the '30s until the early '60s. He recorded for Vocalion, Delmark, Folkways, and Sonet. Short was in the 1963 documentary The Blues, but died before it was released.
J.D. Short (February 26, 1902 – October 21, 1962) was an American Delta blues singer, guitarist and harmonicist. He was a multi-instrumentalist, and possessed a distinctive vibrato laden, singing voice. Early in his career, Short recorded under a number of pseudonyms, including Jelly Jaw Short. His more noteworthy works included "Lonesome Swamp Rattlesnake" and "You're Tempting Me."Cite error: The named reference Wirz was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Cite error: The named reference AMG was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Doc Rock. "The 1960s". The Dead Rock Stars Club. Retrieved 2014-01-26. Dixon RMW, Godrich J, Rye HW (1997). Blues and Gospel Records 1890-1943. 4th ed. Oxford: OUP, p. 794
Born in Port Gibson, Mississippi, Short learned to play both the piano and guitar at a young age. He later mastered the harmonica, saxophone, clarinet and drums. Short performed locally in the Mississippi Delta at house parties, but relocated in 1923 to St. Louis, Missouri.
Short went on to play along with the Neckbones, Henry Spaulding, David "Honeyboy" Edwards, Douglas Williams, and Big Joe Williams. In the 1930s, Short recorded for the Vocalion label. Henry Townsend in his autobiography, A Blue Life, told of incidents in St. Louis that affected both his and Short's lives. Seemingly due to jealousy of his musical standing, Short attacked and twice stabbed Townsend. Later, by way of revenge, Townsend shot Short in his genitals, which resulted in Short losing both of his testicles. The account was also mentioned in Townsend's obituary in The Guardian. Short continued performing in St. Louis after World War II, often as a one-man band and sometimes with his cousin, Big Joe Williams.
Nevertheless, Short effectively disappeared from the music industry for over two decades, before re-emerging at the start of the blues revival period. He achieved belated national recognition, and went on to record further tracks for Delmark and Folkways. Some of his recordings were later released on Sonet.
Short was featured in the 1963 documentary film, The Blues, singing "Slidin' Delta". However, he had already died in October 1962 of a heart attack, in St. Louis, at the age of 60.Ron Wynn. "J.D. Short | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-01-26. "J.D. Short Biography". OLDIES.com. 1902-12-26. Retrieved 2014-01-26. "Slidin' Delta". Rockument.com. Retrieved August 30, 2010. Cite error: The named reference Wirz was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Townsend, Henry (1999). A Blues Life (1st ed.). Urbana: University of Illinois Press. pp. 46–50. ISBN 0-252-02526-1. "Henry Townsend". Document-records.com. Retrieved 2014-01-26. Cite error: The named reference Dead was invoked but never defined (see the help page).