Music News

Exclusive: Happy Birthday, Elmore James!

After 100 years, 10 odd facts

Elmore James turns 100 on January 27, 2018. Here are ten little-known facts about the most influential slide guitarist of all time (and this magazine’s namesake).

By Jim Hynes

  1. James began making music at the age of 12, using a simple one-string instrument called the didley bow, strung on a shack wall.
  2. James was a guitarist in living legend Bobby Rush’s band, when Rush was in Chicago.
  3. Born illegitimately, he was initially named Elmore Brooks before taking his surname from the man who was most likely his father, Joe Willie “Frost” James.
  4. Elmore James was most influenced by Robert Johnson and Tampa Red. Two musicians from Tampa Red’s band, “Little” Johnny Jones (piano) and Odie Payne (drums), joined James’ own backing band, the Broomdusters.
  5. Although James is known as a high-energy electric guitarist, he actually played a modified hollow-body acoustic guitar, which sounded like an amped-up version of the more “modern” solid-body guitars.
  6. Elvis Presley recorded James’ most famous tune, “Dust My Broom.”
  7. James is mentioned in the Beatles song ‘For You Blue” when George Harrison says, “Elmore James got nothin’ on this, baby.”
  8. Although Peter Green, of the original Fleetwood Mac, was highly influenced by James, it was primarily Jeremy Spencer who provided the James’ slide guitar sound for the group.
  9. A radio repairman by trade, he customized his amps to produce the raw, distorted sound that evolved into heavy rock and metal.
  10. James died in 1963, at age 45, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.

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