Elmore James (January 27, 1918 – May 24, 1963) was an American blues guitarist, singer, songwriter and bandleader. He was known as “King of the Slide Guitar” and was noted for his use of loud amplification and his stirring voice. For his contributions to music, James was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.
James was born Elmore Brooks in Richland, Holmes County, Mississippi, the illegitimate son of 15-year-old Leola Brooks, a field hand. His father was probably Joe Willie “Frost” James, who moved in with Leola, and Elmore took his surname. He began making music at the age of 12, using a simple one-string instrument (diddley bow, or jitterbug) strung on a shack wall. As a teen he performed at dances under the names Cleanhead and Joe Willie James. He married Minnie Mae about 1942.
James was influenced by Robert Johnson, Kokomo Arnold and Tampa Red. He recorded several of Tampa Red’s songs. He also inherited from Tampa Red’s band two musicians who joined his own backing band, the Broomdusters, “Little” Johnny Jones (piano) and Odie Payne (drums).There is a dispute about whether Johnson or James wrote James’s signature song, “Dust My Broom“. In the late 1930s, James worked alongside Sonny Boy Williamson II.