Elmore James (Brooks; January 27, 1918 – May 24, 1963) was an American blues guitarist, singer, songwriter, and bandleader. Noted for his use of loud amplification and his stirring voice, James was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. His slide guitar technique earned him the nickname “King of the Slide Guitar”.
Elmore James was born Elmore Brooks in Richland, Holmes County, Mississippi, the 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.
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). In the late 1930s, James worked alongside Sonny Boy Williamson II.
During World War II, James joined the U.S. Navy, was promoted to coxswain and took part in the invasion of Guam. Upon his discharge, he returned to central Mississippi and settled in the town of Canton with his adopted brother Robert Holston.
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