Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Elmore James: The Sky Is Crying

From 1951 to 1962, Elmore James recorded 29 singles. Of those, only three charted – and at that, they placed only on the R&B charts. His first two singles, 1951’s “Dust My Broom” and 1952’s “I Believe” both peaked at #9. His only other record to chart was 1960’s “The Sky is Crying,” which made it to the #15 slot.

Known as the “King of the Slide Guitar,” Elmore James and His Broomdusters recorded the impromptu “The Sky is Crying” in 1959 during a Chicago thunderstorm. Credited to “Elmo” James, the single was released in both 78 and 45 formats on the New York based Fire Records. Fire was a sister label to Fury Records and others. Bobby Robinson, who is credited as the producer, owned the label and probably was not present for the Chicago recording session.

James was known to record for several labels. How he achieved the unique sound on his slide guitar on “The Sky is Crying” has been debated since the record was released in March 1960. The Broomdusters who provide the backup include the following: Homesick James on bass, Odie Payne on drums, Johnny Jones on piano, and J.T. Brown on sax. Good stuff for a Bluesday Tuesday.

James died in Chicago at the age of 45 of a heart attack in 1963.

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