Elmore JamesElmore James
- May 24
) was an American blues
singer and guitarist
. He was born in Canton, Mississippi
and began playing as a teen under the names Cleanhead
and Joe Willie James
At this time, he played with traveling musicians like Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin' Wolf and Robert Johnson. During World War 2, James joined the Navy and was stationed in Guam.
Upon his release, he began recording with Trumpet Records, starting with his characteristic song, "Dust My Broom". It was a surprise hit and turned James into a star.
The slide guitar riff from "Dust My Broom" is one of the best known openings in all of blues. It was even transformed into a doo-wop chorus on Jesse Stone's "Down in the Alley", recorded by The Clovers and Elvis Presley. Stone transcribed the riff as:
- "Changety changety changety changety chang chang!"
James then released a series of singles with his Broomdusters for The Bihari Brothers' various labels. This was followed by numerous label shifts in the 1950s
, and several singles (such as "The Sky Is Crying"). Despite his identification with gutbucket blues, James was a sophisticated, jazzy guitar player who also worked as a studio musician for Atlantic Records
and other labels.
He died in 1963 of a heart attack.