Elmore James was born on a Richland farm in Mississippi on January 27, 1918, and is considered one of the founders of the Chicago style of blues. His mother was Leora Brooks, and his father was assumed to be Joe Willie James, who adopted the child’s role. James and his family were sharecroppers who traveled extensively throughout Mississippi’s Delta region in search of better working conditions. By 1937, they relocated to Belzoni, where James met Robert Johnson, the world-famous Mississippi bluesman. James, who was still relatively unknown, was attempting to develop his style of play. He had a great passion for making music, first with a bow to Dolly and then with a guitar, but he was no different from other traveling bluesmen in the Delta juke joints.
Johnson inspired James’ playing greatly, and in 1951, James recorded the trumpet track, “Dust My Broom” by Johnson and it was the biggest hit for Elmore James in his music career.
James went to the South in the late 1940s, performing in tiny clubs, and began to gain a name as an electric guitarist and vocalist. By 1951, Lillian McMurry, who had recorded her first sessions on her new Trumpet label, was brought to his attention. James moved to Chicago due to excellent sales of these early records, where he was starving for strong electric blues for huge metropolitan audiences. Different labels encouraged James to record in places as different as Los Angeles, Chicago, New Orleans, and New York City. James created songs such as “The Sky Is Crying” and “Hand in Hand”, he was recognized for his rendition of the work of others, such as Tampa Red’s “It Hurts Me Too.”
James spent his time between Chicago and Mississippi during the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s. In his lifetime, he was never known but became a major stylistic influence on the later generation of black and white bluesmen such as Hound Dog Taylor, B. B. King, Georg Thorogood, Rod Price (Foghat) and Stevie Ray Vaughan. James died of a heart attack in Chicago on the 24th, of May 1963.