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West Coast Blues Legend Jimmy McCracklin, R.I.P.

By December 23, 2012

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Jimmy McCracklin's The WalkThe San Jose Mercury News is reporting on the death of West Coast blues legend Jimmy McCracklin at the age of 91; the singer and blues pianist had been battling health problems for several years.

A dynamic performer that mixed blues, jump blues, boogie-woogie and R&B, McCracklin may be best known as a prolific and talented songwriter. Over the course of a lengthy and acclaimed career that spanned an amazing seven decades, McCracklin estimated that he had written close to 1,000 songs, and as an equally prolific recording artist, he'd waxed literally hundreds of his own compositions. A number of other artists also recorded McCracklin songs, from soul artists like Otis Redding to hip-hop stars like Salt-n-Pepa. McCracklin also impacted the world of rock 'n' roll, with both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones citing his influence, while Bob Dylan also called McCracklin a favorite.

McCracklin enjoyed a big hit with his 1958 single "The Walk," released by the Chess Records subsidiary Checkers Records, charting in the Top Ten on both the R&B and pop charts, and performing the song on Dick Clark's American Bandstand TV show. McCracklin enjoyed continued chart success throughout the 1960s with songs like "Just Got To Know" and "Tramp," which he co-wrote with fellow R&B great Lowell Fulson.

McCracklin will also be remembered as one of the architects of the West Coast blues style, as both a performer and promoter. He formed Jimmy McCracklin and the Blues Blasters during the late 1940s, the band performing with one line-up or another well into the 1960s. During the 1970s, he managed the Continental Club in San Francisco, booking artists like Big Joe Turner, T-Bone Walker, and Etta James, among others. McCracklin toured steadily well into the 1990s, and made half a dozen performances at the San Francisco Blues Festival, his last being in 2007. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2008.

"Jimmy McCracklin was a major force on the West Coast blues scene and for many years a vital and vibrant part of the blues community in the East Bay," says Edward Chmelewski, president of Blind Pig Records, quoted in the Mercury News article, "he'll be missed." Our thoughts go out to McCracklin's family, friends, and many fans around the world.

Photo courtesy Razor & Tie Music

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