Skip James was one of the most influential early Bluesmen, but his importance as a stylist remained undiscovered until he was brought out of a long retirement by the Folk/Blues revival of the early 1960's. Born in 1902 and raised in Bentonia, Nehemiah Curtis James was brought up in a religious family: his father was a bootlegger who reformed and became a Baptist preacher. Skip learned piano in school but picked up guitar from his friend Henry Stuckey. In 1931 Skip was picked up by a scout for Paramount Records and he cut 26 tracks, of which 18 were released in a two day session at their Grafton, Wisconsin studios. These recordings presented a unique and haunting genius that influenced legendary bluesmen as Robert Johnson, Kansas Joe McCoy and Johnny Temple. But the recordings sold poorly, having been released during the Great Depression, and he drifted into obscurity.
We have included as online downloads Skip's 1931 recordings. The crackling sound of these rare recordings cannot obscure the brilliance of this seminal Blues master
After over 30 years retirement from music, Skip was rediscovered by blues enthusiasts Bill Barth, John Fahey and Henry Vestine. They persuaded Skip to appear at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964, where his renditions of his old songs were still powerful and moving. His performances as well as his old and new recordings influenced a generation of new musicians: Eric Clapton, Alan Wilson of Canned Heat, Cream, Deep Purple, Chris Thomas King, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Derek Trucks, Beck, Big Sugar, John Martyn, Lucinda Williams and Rory Block to name a few.
Books on legendary Blues musicians written by White musicologists tend to offer a subjective perspective on how the artists felt, thought or reacted. A tainted picture is captured that has more to do with the writer's social and musical experiences. This autobiography is different. The words, thoughts and feelings come directly from the artist's lips. This is the story of Nehemiah "Skip" James told by Nehemiah "Skip" James.
Level 1 • 128 pages • Download Audio Files