Jimmy Dawkins Dies At 76

Jimmy Dawkins died on Wednesday in his Chicago home at age 76. The widely admired blues musician, who worked with big names like Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and “That’s All Right Mama” Arthur Crudup, earned the nickname “Fast Fingers” because of his aggressive, hard-driving style. His obituary has just been released in his home-town newspaper, the Chicago Sun-Times.

Born in Tchula, he was actually brought up in Pascagoula, a Mississippi coastal town distant from the well-known Delta area that claims to have given birth to much of the blues. Instead, music historian Duck Schumann said that Dawkins was heavily influenced by artists from nearby New Orleans, like Fats Domino.

As a result, his superlative guitar technique and unusually soft, mellow singing stood out from the crowd — even though he had to teach himself how to play guitar before he moved to Chicago in 1955.

He was something of a perfectionist, which helped him in his quest to become an internationally respected blues star. He also had a focus on national and international conditions, performing songs with titles like “Born in Poverty” and “Welfare Line,” rather than just sticking to popular blues themes about relationships gone wrong.

Record label owner Michael Frank noted Jimmy Dawkins’ quiet expression of black pride, stating that the musician wouldn’t joke or clown around on stage, since he felt that harked back to bad memories of minstrel days.

And Dawkins wasn’t particularly happy with the “Fast Fingers” nickname which stuck to him, because he felt that it allowed people to overlook the fact that he could also do slow and moody songs.

He played Chicago’s famous blues clubs and became a session musician there. In 1969 he released his first album, Fast Fingers on Delmark Records, which won the “Grand Prix du Disque” award from the Hot Club de France. He toured Europe and Japan as well as the United States.

The cause of his death hasn’t yet been released, but he’d experienced some health problems that caused him to slow down his touring recently.

Chicago, and the world, lost another blues legend when Jimmy Dawkins died.

[guitar photo by Alex Lewis via Flickr]