Let Jimmy's Fingers Do the Talking

By Keith Clements

The KYANA Blues Society continued its series of monthly sponsored events at Uncle Pleasant's on Saturday, May 27, with a good performance by Jimmy "Fast Fingers" Dawkins and his Blues Band. The three-set show was a clinic in guitar playing. Jimmy is a product of Chicago's West Side blues scene that spawned other great guitarists like Buddy Guy, Luther Allison, Otis Rush and Magic Sam, but his style does not have the flamboyance and contortions of some of these other musicians. Dawkins is strictly for business with his haunting deep groaning tone punctuated by staccato riffs that he gets from his big Gibson 355 guitar. His singing is sparse with a pleading quality. Jimmy is serious about his music and he told me between sets, "each song comes from me with no gimmicks."

The near-capacity crowd was appreciative of the whole band, which included Roy Scott on drums, who had played with Howling Wolf. Mike Morrison played bass and Doug McDonald was a show in himself, doing vocals, lead and rhythm guitar. Mike and Doug are no strangers to Louisville for they played with Phil Guy when he performed at Hugs in December 1987. When I heard Doug then he sounded good but his voice and guitar work has developed considerably since. His emotional playing is in distinct contrast to Jimmy's laid-back style, but the interplay of their guitar work together is excellent. Doug's talent is showcased in his own band called Blue Mirror which also includes Mike on bass. Jimmy Dawkins is always on the lookout for new talent, and he brought a young singer, Nora Jean Wallace, to perform in the last two sets. She got the crowd going with her enthusiasm, especially when she tried to woo a dancer away from his partner.

As in most blues shows, the performance warmed up as the night went on. After the short first set, which did not feature much of Dawkins' playing, the second set heated up real fast with Doug's version of "Born Under A Bad Sign," and from then on it was like being in a Chicago blues club on a Saturday night. Jimmy currently plays regularly at B.L.U.E.S. in Chicago and is planning to open a club of his own on the north side which seems to be the ambition of other blues musicians. Junior Wells has his Checkerboard Lounge on 43rd St. and James Cotton has opened a club, Cotton Chicago, on the north side. Finally, Buddy Guy will be opening his club, "Legends," on Walbash.

This was Dawkins' first time to play Louisville but the band has been traveling extensively, with a trip to Europe last November/December, and they have just returned from a tour of Canada. Another trip abroad is scheduled later this year. Jimmy is overdue for new domestic record release since most of his recordings during the '70s and '80s have been on hand to get import labels. If you ever come across any of his original three albums on Delmark, they are worth purchasing, especially "Fast Fingers" which got the Grand Prize for "best album of the year" from the Hot Club of France. Jimmy has his own record production company, called Leric, for recording Chicago's new talent. He has recently taped a live performance at B.L.U.E.S. but is now planning to go into the studio to do a record for a release on Jim O'Neal's Rooster Records.