James Henry Dawkins, b. October 24, 1936 in Tchula, MS, d. April 10, 2013 in Chicago, IL, Chicago blues and electric blues guitarist and singer, active 1960s-2000s. He is generally considered to have been a practitioner of the "West Side sound" of Chicago blues. Dawkins taught himself to play blues guitar in the early 50s and moved to Chicago in 1957, forming his own band two years later, while also working club dates with bluesmen such as Jimmy Rogers and Magic Sam. Dawkins is an expressive singer and a strong, inventive guitarist, and in the latter capacity he has been called on for recording sessions by many artists from the 60s onwards; Luther Allison, Wild Child Butler, Phil Guy and Johnny Young are only a few in a long list. He has recorded under his own name for many labels, including Delmark, Black And Blue, MCM, Excello, Isabel, JSP and Rumble Records. Dawkins is a quiet man who takes his blues very seriously; in the early 70s he was a contributor to Blues Unlimited magazine, and in the 80s he ran his own Leric label, recording artists such as Little Johnny Christian rather than promoting his own career. Dawkins died of undisclosed causes on April 10, 2013, aged 76.
Jimmy Dawkins Biography by Bill Dahl
Chicago guitarist Jimmy Dawkins would have preferred to leave his longtime nickname "Fast Fingers" behind. It was always something of a stylistic misnomer anyway; Dawkins' West Side-styled guitar slashed and surged, but seldom burned with incendiary speed. Dawkins' blues were generally of the brooding, introspective variety -- he didn't engage in flashy pyrotechnics or outrageous showmanship.
It took a long time for Dawkins to progress from West Side fixture to nationally known recording artist. He rode a Greyhound bus out of Mississippi in 1955, dressing warmly to ward off the Windy City's infamous chill factor. Only trouble was, he arrived on a sweltering July day! Harpist Billy Boy Arnold offered the newcomer encouragement, and he eventually carved out a niche on the competitive West Side scene (his peers included Magic Sam and Luther Allison).
Sam introduced Dawkins to Delmark Records boss Bob Koester. Fast Fingers, Dawkins' 1969 debut LP for Delmark -- which remained his best album -- was a taut, uncompromising piece of work that won the Grand Prix du Disque de Jazz from the Hot Club of France in 1971 as the year's top album. Andrew "Big Voice" Odom shared the singing and Otis Rush the second guitar duties on Dawkins' 1971 encore, All for Business. But after his Delmark LP Blisterstring, Dawkins' subsequent recordings lacked intensity until 1991's oddly titled Kant Sheck Dees Bluze for Chicago's Earwig Records. After that, Dawkins waxed discs for Ichiban and Fedora, and continued to tour extensively until health problems slowed him down. Jimmy Dawkins passed away April 10, 2013.