Skip James

Blues and gospel singer and songwriter, Skip James, was known for his distinctive falsetto vocals and minor-key guitar sound. Born on June 21, 1902 in Yazoo City, Mississippi, James was raised on the Woodbine plantation just outside Betonia. Inspired by musicians Henry Stuckey and Rich Griffin at a young age, he taught himself piano and developed his guitar style after learning from Stuckey. In 1931, James signed a contract with Paramount Records and recorded several songs. However, due to his newfound religion as a Baptist minister's son, he refused further recording opportunities.

In 1948, James attempted to resume his blues career but struggled to find success in the changing blues landscape of Mississippi. He eventually disappeared from the music scene until being rediscovered in 1964 by Bill Barth, John Fahey, and Henry Vestine. Despite battling cancer and constant pain during this time period, James made a comeback with performances at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964. He released albums with various record companies such as Vanguard Records.

During the last years of his life spent in Philadelphia with his third wife, James faced financial difficulties until receiving recognition for his songwriting credits through the group Cream's recording of "I'm So Glad." In 1992, he was posthumously inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame.


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