With his unique style of guitar playing blues legend Elmore James quickly became known as the “King of the Slide Guitar.” His raw and some would say “violent” guitar playing came from his modified hollow-body acoustic guitar and the use of a bottleneck slide. James’ emotional vocals in tow, the musician would meld many genres of blues, gospel and country to make his music stand out from the other blues players of his time. James became so well known he would play to packed house wherever he was on tour. Even at his regular haunts, James’ even drew the attention of his peers — Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and B. B. King.
James had a string of blues hit singles, but none more popular than “Dust My Broom” (also known as “Dust My Blues”). The song even gave James’ backing band — Homesick James, J.T. Brown, Boyd Atkins and Sam Cassell — its moniker, the Broomdusters. The Delta blues-style song was originally recorded in 1936 by Robert Johnson under the title “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom” The blues standard has had many incarnations since Johnson recorded it over 80 years ago, but it was James’ version with its bottle neck opening slide guitar riff which has gone on to be used by B. B. King to open his 1953 number one R&B hit “Please Love Me.” It was even transformed into a doo-wop chorus on Jesse Stone’s “Down in the Alley,” recorded by the Clovers and Elvis Presley. It is also the opening riff of the Yardbirds’ “The Nazz Are Blue.”
The “King of the Slide Guitar” went on to influence, not only many of his peers in the blues genre, but long after his death, he continues to influence rock & roll guitar players when they want to learn how to play slide guitar. The Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones, Canned Heat’s Alan Wilson, Fleetwood Mac’s Jeremy Spencer, John Mayall, the Allman Brothers’ Duane Allman, and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons all cite James when it comes to learning blues slide guitar. Not only was his guitar style influential, but his songs were as well. Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, George Thorogood, and Eric Clapton have all covered James’ songs.
Acrobat Records is celebrating the music of Elmore James with this enthralling 2CD, 52-track release ‘Complete Singles As & Bs 1951-62.’ The set does include the hit singles and so much more. There are plenty of hidden gems and deep cuts here like “Catfish Blues,” “Sinful Woman,” “Standing At The Crossroads,” “Blues Before Sunrise,” “Long Tall Woman,” “Fine Little Mama,” “Shake Your Moneymaker,” and “Anna Lee.”
Like with most bluesmen of that era, James’ songs revolved around struggles of making money, survival, love, women, and sex. James’ vocal delivery is so passionate, he sings with so much conviction, you can’t help but believe every word he belts out, and maybe feel a little sorrow for him in the process. That is the real meaning behind the blues and Elmore James had it in spades.