Glossary entry for
Blues singer Jimmy Witherspoon (born August 8, 1923, Gurdon, Ark.; died September
13, 1997, Los Angeles, Ca.), a Grammy nominee whose trademark was his deep, smoky
voice, died September 18, 1997 at the age of 74 after a 15-year bout with throat
cancer. He was one of the last, if not THE last, person who was actually there on
the scene in Kansas City when it was the jazz and swing capital of the world, and
appeared with Van on both the Night
In San Francisco album in 1993 and the New York Supper Club shows in
"Spoon," as he was known, recorded dozens of albums and fronted both small bands
and large orchestras. His career included tours in Europe, performances for
prison inmates and appearances at such influential venues as the Monterey Jazz
His hits included "Blues Around the Clock," "Some of My Best Friends are the
Blues," and "Blue Spoon."
While traveling the world as a merchant seaman during World War II, he had an
opportunity to sing with the big band of Teddy Weatherford, who encouraged him to
pursue a music career.
Beginning in 1944, he appeared in the music clubs of Los Angeles, and got a big
break when he was invited to join Jay McShann's band in Vallejo.
In 1949, Witherspoon's first single, "Ain't Nobody's Business," reached No. 1 on
the R&B charts.
His career slowed with the advent of rock 'n' roll but he made a comeback
performance at the 1959 Monterey Jazz Festival and over the next decade recorded
with Earl Hines and other jazz greats, made European tours and regularly visited
prisons to perform for inmates.
He toured with guitarist Robben Ford and appeared at blues and jazz festivals
until he had to undergo surgery for throat cancer in the mid 1980s.
He rejoined Ford in the early 1990s. Their "Live at the Mint" album was nominated
for the 1995 Grammy Award for best traditional blues album.
More information available at:
Van references in:
Part of the van-the-man.info unofficial website