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.