© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

STUDIO SESSION FOR JAMES COTTON
AT THE MEMPHIS RECORDING SERVICE FOR SUN RECORDS 1953
 
SUN RECORDING STUDIO
706 UNION AVENUE, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
SUN SESSION: MONDAY DECEMBER 7, 1953
SESSION HOURS: UNKNOWN
PRODUCER AND RECORDING ENGINEER - SAM C. PHILLIPS 
 
James Cotton was just seventeen when he began hosting his own radio show over KWEM in West Memphis, Arkansas. That same year of 1952 he was playing harmonica with Howlin' Wolf, hanging out with Bobby Bland and playing on his first recording at 706 Union with drummer Willie Nix. He was also driving an ice truck at the time and had to obtain special permission to leave work early to make this session. Showing all the force of rock and roll, "My Baby" was the liner of his two Sun singles. 
 
01 - "MY BABY" - B.M.I. - 2:20
Composer: - James Cotton
Publisher: - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - U 98 - Dub Off Disc - Original Master Lost
Recorded: - December 7, 1953
Released: - April 15, 1954
First appearance: - Sun Records 78/45rpm standard single SUN 199-A mono
MY BABY / STRAIGHTEN UP BABY
Reissued: - 1994 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15801-2-19 mono
THE SUN SINGLES COLLECTION - VOLUME 1
Its not known whether James Cotton's pronunciation (i.e. in "My Vavy") was slurred by his Mississippi origins, or the contents of a bottle of sauce - but its readily evident that he must have attended the same school of diction as Jimmy Reed. Nonetheless, Cotton manages to crank up a pretty rocking opus out of a fairly modest riff, whilst the saxes of Harvey Simmons and Tom Roane, and guitar of Pat Hare, cover the ground that might normally have been handled by a full horn section. Both solos evince distinct jazz feelings.
 
02 - "STRAIGHTEN UP BABY" - B.M.I. - 2:19
Composer: - James Cotton
Publisher: - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - U 99 - Dub Off Disc - Original Master Lost
Recorded: - December 7, 1953
Released: - April 15, 1954
First appearance: - Sun Records (S) 78/45rpm standard single SUN 199-B mono
STRAIGHTEN UP BABY / MY BABY
Reissued: - 1994 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15801-2-20 mono
THE SUN SINGLES COLLECTION - VOLUME 1
It really is unclear which side of SUN 199 was the designated plug side, as arguably both this and "My Baby" are competent performances with solid riffs. However, neither side quite possesses that special excitement which would distinguish them from the other thirty or forty rhythm and blues releases of that particular week in April 1954.
 
Another graduate of the Jimmy Reed School of Diction, James Cotton delivers a some what lackluster performance on "My Baby" (SUN 199) and the flipside "Straighten Up Baby" (SUN 199), both Cotton and the band are more focused and the results are far more engaging.
  
The May 1, 1954 issue of Billboard was singularly unimpressed, rightly observing that competent bank work was the high point here although, in their words, "nothing sensational happens". 
 
Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
James Cotton - Vocal
Tom Roane - Tenor Saxophone
Harvey Simmons - Tenor Saxophone
Pat Hare - Guitar
Billy Love - Piano
Kenneth Banks - Bass
Houston Stokes- - Drums
 
The local response must have been good, though, because one month after its release on April 15, 1954, Sam Phillips called James Cotton back into the studio to cut a follow-up.
 
© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©
JAMES COTTON - Born James 'Jimmy'' Cotton in Tunica, Tunica County, Mississippi, on July 1, 1935. His   father was a preacher and his mother played the harmonica. Born, raised and worked on a   farm as child and singing in the local church in the 1940s.
 
In 1944, he ran away from home   at 14 to live with Sonny Boy Williamson II, (also known as Rice Miller) who taught him to play   harmonica and frequently worked on streets, local juke joints, and parties for tips in Tunica,  Mississippi.  
 
Worked with Sonny Boy Williams II in Helena, Arkansas at the King Biscuit Time,   for KFFA-radio and frequent on tours and working in juke joints through the Mississippi /   Arkansas Delta in the late 1940s.
 
James Cotton occasional worked in bands of Howlin' Wolf, Willie Nix, and others in West   Memphis in 1950 and he has been an enduring figure on the blues scene for almost forty   years. A journeyman performer, - play drums, play guitar and harmonica - he has worked   and recorded constantly and consistently since the early 1950s. James Cotton came from   the thriving West Memphis scene, playing on the streets when he was nine or ten years   old.
 
In 1950, Cotton worked with and influenced by Sonny Boy Williamson II at the Be-Bop Hall   in West Memphis, Arkansas and assumed leadership of Sonny Boy Williams Band working in   local gigs and toured with the band through Tennessee and Arkansas in the early 1950s and   worked frequently as single in the local juke joints and clubs in West Memphis. He also   appeared with Willie Nix at the Broadway Furniture Store Show on KWEM-radio in West   Memphis, frequently appeared on the Hart's Bread Show on KWEM-radio; and worked outside the music in the West Memphis area.
 
In 1955, Cotton has married and have 2 children. After Sam Phillips started Sun Records,   he contacted in 1953 Cotton at KWEM with a view to recordings through 1954. Cotton   joined Muddy Waters Band in Memphis and toured, worked and recorded off-and-on with   the band out of Chicago from 1954 through 1966.
 
He frequently worked at the 798 Club Sulvio's and other in Chicago in late 1950s into early   1960s. He appeared with Muddy Waters Band at the Carnegie Hall in New York City in 1959   (portion are released on United Artist label); worked with Muddy Waters at the New Port   Jazz Festival in Newport, Rode Island in 1960 (portion are released on the Chess label and   portion shown in the film The Subterraneas); he also toured with Muddy Waters Band and working on concert dates through England, Europe in 1961; worked at the British Beaulieu   Jazz Festival in London, England in 1961; recorded for Columbia label in London, England   in 1961 and worked with the Muddy waters Band at the Carnegie Hall in New York City in   1961; recorded with Otis Spain for the Vanguard label in Chicago, Illinois in 1965;   recorded and accompanied to Johnny Young for the Arhoolie label in Chicago, Illinois in  1965, and worked at the Downbeat Jazz Festival in Chicago, Illinois in 1965.
 
In 1966 James Cotton formed his own band to work in local club dates in Chicago, Illinois;   recorded for Loma label in Chicago, Illinois; worked with Mother Blues in Chicago, Illilois in   1966; at the Bowery in Chicago, Illinois in 1966; at the Fillmore Auditorium in San   Francisco, California in 1966; at the Folk Music Festival in Berkeley, California in 1967   (portion shown on syndicated TV); recorded for Verve label in New York City in 1967;   worked at the Town Hall in New York City in 1967; at the La Cave in Cleveland, Ohio in 1967; the Living End in Detroit, Michigan in 1967; the Grand Ballroom in Detroit, in 1967;   at the Second Fret in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1967; the Riverboat in Toronto, Canada   in 1967.
 
In 1968, Cotton appeared at the Fillmore East in New York City; at the Troubadour In Los   Angeles, California in 1968; the Loew's King Theater in Brooklyn, New Yersey in 1968; the   Cafe A-Go-Go in New York City, New York in 1968; he also performed at the Sky River Rock   Festival in Sultan, Washington in 1968; the Fillmore West in San Francisco, California in   1968; recorded for the Vanguard label in San Francisco, California in 1968; worked at the   Kaleidoscope in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1968, the Miami Pop Festival in Hallandale,   Florida in 1968.
 
In 1969 Cotton appeared at the The Eagles in Seattle, Washington; appeared on Hugh   Hefner's "Playboy After Dark" for WOR-TV in New York City in 1969 (syndicated); worked at   the The Felt Forum in New York City in 1969 and worked with Muddy Waters at the   Auditorium in Chicago, Illinois in 1969; the International Pop Festival in Lewisvilly, Texas in   1969; the Sky River Rock Festival in Tenino, Washington in 1969; at the State University of   New York in Buffalo, New Yersey in 1969; at the Colonial Tavern in Toronto, Canada in 1969-70, the Ann Arbor Blues Festival, Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1969; at the Jazz Workshop   in Boston, Massachusetts in 1969-70; worked with Muddy Waters Band in Ungano's, New   York City in 1969.
 
In 1970, James Cotten appeared at the Dial M For Music on CBS-TV; worked at the Pepper's   Lounge in Chicago, Illinois in 1970 to 1972; at the Blue Flame Lounge in Chicago, Illinois in   1970-71; at the Lennie's in Boston, Massachusetts in 1970-72; the Town Hall in New York   City in 1970; recorded for Capitol label in Los Angeles, California in the early 1970s;   worked at the Coq D'or in Toronto, Canada in 1971, the Kileinhan's Music Hall in Buffalo,  New Yersey in 1971; at the University of Detroit, Michigan in 1972; the Esquire Showbar in  Montreal, Canada in 1972; appeared in the UK film short "Playing The Thing" in 1972;   worked at the Siena Col Blues Festival in Memphis, Tennessee in 1972; at Joe's Place in   Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1972; the Good Rockin' Lounge in Chicago, Illinois in 1972,   and the Central Park Music Festival in New York City in 1973.
 
In 1973, Cotton toured with Muddy Waters Band at the Auditorium in Chicago, Illinois; the   Theresa's Lounge in Chicago, Illinois in 1973 to 1974; the Grendel's Lair Coffeehouse in   Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1973; the Avery Fisher Hall in New York City in 1973, the La   Bastille in Houston, Texas in 1973; the Paul's Mall in Houston, Texas in 1973, the Shaboo   Inn in Mansfield, Connecticut in 1973; Sandy's in Beverly, Massachusetts in 1973-74.
 
In 1974-75, Cotton appeared at the Main Point in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania; at the   Monterrey Jazz Festival in Monterey, California in 1974; the Last Change Saloon in   Poughkeepsie, New York in 1974; the Checkerboard Lounge in Chicago, Illinois in 1974;   the Electric Ballroom in Atlanta, Georgia in 1974, at the University of Houston, Texas in   1974; the Pepper's Hideout in Chicago, Illinois in 1974; the Sweet Queen Bee's in Chicago,   Illinois in 1974; the Rainbow Room in Detroit, Michigan in 1974; recorded for the Buddah   label in Quincy, Massachusetts in 1974; at the Waster concert Cocao Beach, Florida in 1974; performed at the Convention Centerin Dallas, Texas in 1974; at the Mondavi Winery   Summer Festival in Oakville, California in 1975.
 
In 1975, James Cotton toured with Johnny Winter and working on concert dates across the   United States in 1975 and worked with Johnny Winter at the Spectrum in Philadelphia,   Pennsylvania in 1975; recorded for the Biddah label in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1975;   worked at the Boston Club in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1975; performed at the   Aquarius Tavern in Seattle, Washington in 1975; the Ratso's in Chicago, Illinois in 1975-76;   at Peyton Place in Chicago, Illinois in 1975; the Keystone in Berkeley, California in 1975-19  76; at the Bottom Line in New York City, New York in 1975-76; the Sophie's in Palo Alto,   California in 1976; worked at My Father's Place in Roslyn, New York in 1976; in Max's   Kansas City in New York City, New York in 1976; at the Outside Inn in Buffalo, New Yersey   in 1976; at the Monterey Jazz Festival in Monterey, California in 1976; recorded with   Muddy Waters for the Blue Sky label in Westport, Connecticut in 1976; worked at the  Palladium in New York City, New York in 1977; at the Elliot's Nest in Rochester, New York in   1977.
 
James Cotton toured with Muddy Waters Band and Johnny Winter working at concert,   college dates across the United States in 1977; worked in Ivanhoe in Chicago, Illinois in   1977; at the Liberty Hall in Houston, Texas in 1977; and the Belle Starr in Buffalo, New   York in 1977. James Cotton is one of the better live performers in the blues and he is still   active in Chicago and currently make records for Alligator Records.
 
After battling throat cancer in the late 1990s, James Cotton stopped singing. In 2008, he and Ben Harper inducted Little Walter into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. His latest recordings appeared on Allogator Records in 2010. He has considerably pared back his touring schedule, but for many, many years James Cotton came to a town (or a country) near you.