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Jimmie Gordon

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  • Years Active: 1930s, 1940s

Albums

Biography All Music Guide

All Music Guide:

As is the case with so many African-American musicians who were active during the first half of the 20th century, Chicago blues singer and pianist Jimmie Gordon languished in posthumous obscurity for years and was subsequently "rediscovered," which in his case meant having his legacy tangled up in erroneous and inconclusive information. He is believed to have been born in the year 1906, but the claim that he originated in St. Louis is almost certainly traceable to a fabricated reference stemming from the fact that his recording of "Bed Springs Blues" was released by Decca as the flip side of a tune played by St. Louis bluesman Peetie Wheatstraw ("The Devil's Son-in-Law") with the phrase "Peetie Wheatstraw's Brother" printed on the label after Gordon's name. This marketing gimmick gave rise to all kinds of theories as to Gordon's heredity and origins. There is no evidence that he had anything to do with St. Louis, and the only direct link he had with Wheatstraw was their collaboration during a session that took place in October 1938 with guitarist Lonnie Johnson.

Jimmie Gordon, who had a hit with his October 1936 recording of "I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water," was active on the Chicago blues scene throughout the decade leading up to the Second World War, and is known to have recorded 67 titles between 1934 and 1946, all of which have been reissued on compact disc by the Document label. Gordon was a passable pianist who sang with all his heart in a warm and convincing voice. His approach to putting over a song was similar to that of Leroy Carr, Big Bill Broonzy, Tampa Red, Big Maceo Merriweather, and Bumble Bee Slim, a guitarist with whom he recorded as both pianist and vocalist. Gordon's groups, sometimes billed as the Vip Vop Band, were fortified by the presence of string players Scrapper Blackwell and the brothers Charlie and Joe McCoy, as well as members of the Harlem Hamfats, pianist Sam Price, and several heroes of the New York jazz scene including trumpeter Frankie Newton, alto saxophonist Pete Brown, and drummer Zutty Singleton.

With the exception of one Bluebird side at the very beginning of his discography, all of Gordon's pre-WWII recordings appeared on the Decca label. Four titles, played by a modern-sounding R&B unit he called the Bip Bop Band, were released on the King and Queen labels in 1946. The Jimmie Gordon story, for all intents and purposes, ends with these jump blues records, and nothing is known of his fate afterwards. A rumor that he lived into the 1990s and died in Nevada was accidentally generated and spread over the Internet by a loose reference to vocalist Jimmy Gordon, a member of the Four Tunes, a vocal group formed during the 1940s and disbanded nearly 50 years later in Carson City, NV.