Saturday, March 2, 2013
Maxwell Street Jimmy Davis
Maxwell Street Jimmy Davis (March 2, 1925 – December 28, 1995) was an American electric blues singer, guitarist and songwriter. He played with John Lee Hooker, recorded an album for Elektra Records in the mid 1960s, and remained a regular street musician on Maxwell Street, Chicago, for over 40 years.
He was also known as Jewtown Jimmy, and is best remembered for his songs "Cold Hands" and "4th And Broad"
He was born Charles W. Thompson, in Tippo, Mississippi. In his teens, Davis learned to play guitar from John Lee Hooker, and the two of them played concerts together in Detroit in the 1940s, following Davis' relocation there in 1946. Prior to his move to Detroit, Davis had worked in traveling minstrel shows. This included a spell with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels. Davis later spent nearly a year living in Cincinatti, Ohio, before he moved to Chicago in 1953. He started performing regularly in the marketplace area of Maxwell Street, playing a traditional and electrified style of Mississippi blues.
In 1952, he recorded two songs under his real name for Sun Records. They were "Cold Hands" and "4th and Broad", and despite being offered to both Chess and Bullet, they were not released. The exact timing of Davis' adoption of his new name is uncertain, but in 1964, under his new pseudonym, he waxed a couple of tracks for Testament. They appeared on the 1965 Testament compilation album, Modern Chicago Blues. His songs were "Crying Won't Make Me Stay" and "Hanging Around My Door".The album also included a track from another Chicago street performer, John Lee Granderson, as well as more established artists such as Robert Nighthawk, Big Walter Horton, and Johnny "Man" Young. Music journalist, Tony Russell, wrote it was "music of great charm and honesty".
In 1966, Davis recorded a self-titled album for Elektra Records, which Allmusic's Jason Ankeny called "a fine showcase for his powerful guitar skills and provocative vocals". Davis recorded several tracks for various labels over the years without commercial success.
He owned a small restaurant on Maxwell Street called the Knotty Pine Grill, and performed outside the premises during the summer months. Davis continued to play alfresco in Chicago's West Side for decades, up to his latter years. In July 1994, Wolf Records released the album, Chicago Blues Session, Vol. 11, the tracks of which Davis had recorded in 1988 and 1989. The collection included Lester Davenport on harmonica, and Kansas City Red playing the drums.
Davis died of a heart attack in December 1995, in his adopted hometown of Chicago. He was 70 years old
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