The Washington Post

Jimmy Dawkins, Chicago bluesman, dies at 76

Blues guitarist and pioneer of the “West Side” style of blues Jimmy Dawkins died on April 10 at his home on Chicago’s far South Side. (David Redfern/Redferns)

Jimmy “Fast Fingers” Dawkins, a Chicago bluesman who was known for his stellar guitar playing and mellow singing voice, died April 10. He was 76.

Bob Koester, the owner of Delmark Records, confirmed Mr. Dawkins’s death. The cause could not be immediately confirmed. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that he died at his home in Chicago.

James Henry Dawkins was born in Tchula, Miss. An only child, he taught himself to play guitar before moving to Chicago in the 1950s.

Koester said Mr. Dawkins did not immediately begin his music career, instead working in a box factory before taking to Chicago’s streets to play for tips. He formed a band in the 1960s and began working in Chicago’s blues clubs, gaining a reputation as an excellent sideman and playing with such notables as Otis Rush and Buddy Guy.

Mr. Dawkins’s first album, “Fast Fingers,” released on the Delmark label in 1969, boosted his reputation, particularly in Europe and Japan, where he toured frequently.

“He didn’t like his nickname,” Koester said. “It gave the impression that he played only upbeat music.”

Mr. Dawkins performed a style of music known as the West Side Chicago blues — a mellower sound that reflected his Mississippi roots, instead of the harder-edged sounds of the city’s South Side.

“His voice was feathery, soft,” Koester said. “He wasn’t a shouter, which is unusual in blues.”

In addition to performing, Mr. Dawkins was a frequent contributor to Living Blues magazine.

Information on survivors was not available.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read
Your Three. Video curated for you.

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.