Who was/is James Cotton ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more

The James Cotton Band

For much of the ‘70s, harp blaster James Cotton fronted one of the highest-energy blues bands in the business

A product of Tunica, Mississippi, born on July 1, 1935, Cotton's harp mentor from age nine was Sonny Boy Williamson. "I heard Sonny Boy one day over station KFFA in Arkansas. He was singing songs and blowing harmonica. And I liked it. So I told my uncle about it," says Cotton. "I guess six or seven months later he took me to see him." Williamson's tough love tutelage was invaluable. "I stayed with Sonny Boy six years.  The only thing Sonny Boy did was just kind of guide me along. He never picked up a harp and said, 'Play this,' or 'Play that.' I just kind of watched him do it, and I was around him all the time.

15-year-old James inherited Sonny Boy's band after Williamson's wife split. "She moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and we was in West Memphis, Arkansas," says Cotton. "So I guess after she was there six or seven months, Sonny Boy couldn't take it no more. He just walked in one night and gave me the band, and cut out the next morning. The band didn't stay together long. I was a kid."

Howlin' Wolf hired the youth to play on a ‘52 date at Sam Phillips' Memphis studio. Phillips signed James to a Sun Records contract the next year. "I used to be on the radio, station KWEM, West Memphis, Arkansas, from 3:00 ‘til 3:15," he says. "I guess Phillips heard the show, and he called me over and asked me if I wanted to do some recording." Pat Hare's raging guitar sliced through Cotton's '54 Sun encore, Cotton Crop Blues. Later that year, Muddy Waters brought him north to Chicago.

"Muddy had been on a tour down through Tennessee, Georgia, Florida," says Cotton. "Junior Wells was playing with him. Something happened where Junior left the band. He was coming back to Memphis to play, and he needed a harp player. Everybody told him about me, and he came over and found me."  Perhaps Cotton's most memorable moment with Waters came when he blew up a tornado at the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival on Muddy's Got My Mojo Working (this live version is often regarded as definitive). "I put the arrangement on there," he notes.

Cotton finally went on his own in 1966. "I wanted to stretch out more on my harp and play more," he says. "A lot of things I wanted to play that I couldn't play in the band, because I was playing Muddy Waters' music." He waxed the first of his three solo LPs for Verve Forecast the next year. "That's the first album that ever kicked off anything for us," says James.

Bassist Charles Calmese and drummer Kenny Johnson drove the Cotton Band's 1974 Buddah LP ‘100% Cotton' like a runaway semi behind James' full-throttle harp and roaring vocals, but ex-Memphis Slim sideman Matt ‘Guitar' Murphy was its MVP. "Matt Murphy joined me about seven years after I had the band," says Cotton. Boogie Thing led it off, the modal Murphy composition not far removed from John Lee Hooker's endless boogie groove with Pete Jekanowski guesting on piano. "'100% Cotton' is the one that's been keeping the bacon in the box," notes Cotton.

Mr. Superharp's voice has been ravaged in recent years by throat cancer, but his harmonica chops remain as prodigious as ever.

Bill Dahl
Chicago, Illinois


Electric Blues 1939-2005. - The Definitive Collection!



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James Cotton: Live At Antone's Nightclub (180 g)
Art-Nr.: LPANT3502

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(2015/Texas Music Group) 8 tracks. Incl. download card.

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James Cotton: Mighty Long Time (2-LP, 180g)
Art-Nr.: LPANT3501

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(2015/Texas Music Group) 16 tracks. New edition of the Antone's classic from the 1990s with 4 bonus tracks! Includes a remastered digital download.

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James Cotton: Cotton, James Cotton Mouth Man
Art-Nr.: CDAL4954

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(2013 'Alligator') (48:56 / 13) Nouveau CD avec de nombreux invités: Joe Bonamassa, Gregg Allman, Keb 'Mo, WARRENHAYNES, RUTHIE FOSTER, Darrell NULISH, et beaucoup plus.

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James Cotton: Two Sides Of The Blues (CD)
Art-Nr.: CDMVD0985

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(MVDaudio) 9 Tracks (27:42) - Brilliant 1960s Soul Blues with a Go-Go feeling plus Downhome Country Blues!

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James Cotton: Take Me Back
Art-Nr.: BPLP2587

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(1988 'Blind Pig') Blind Pig

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James Cotton: Giant
Art-Nr.: CDAL4940

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Cotton is back on Alligator. It was for Bruce Iglauer's label that he recorded some of his finest, modern, funky sides during the mid-eighties. Cotton, one of the world's greatest harmonica players, ever is still in great shape, although he lost his voice a couple...

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James Cotton: Fire Down Under The Hill
Art-Nr.: CD83497

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(1999 'Telarc') (51:48/10) Sein Leben lang hat er auf der höchsten Energiestufe gearbeitet, bis zum Umfallen auf der Bühne geschuftet und sich die Seele aus dem Hals gesungen und geschrien. Seit einigen Jahren ist seine Stimme nur kaum mehr als ein lautes...

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James Cotton: How Long Can A Fool Go Wrong (2-CD)
Art-Nr.: CD250287

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James Cotton, one of the most energetic harmonica players in blues history. This great live set was recorded during his high-energy period. Backed by a superb funky blues band, this is a classic. JAMES COTTON - hca/voc, MATT 'GUITAR' MURPHY - gtr, MIKE ZAITCHIK -...

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James Cotton: 35th Anniversary Jam
Art-Nr.: CD83550

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Around 1966, Cotton left the Muddy Waters Band to form his own unit. This '35th anniversary' is the idea behind this album, which doens't due Cotton justice. I would have loved to hear more heavy-weight contemporaries. This is just another session. Mediocre. JAMES...

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James Cotton: 3 Harp Boogie
Art-Nr.: CDTOM2123

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(1963/67) (27:42/09) Acoustic session (1963): JAMES COTTON - hca/voc, PAUL BUTTERFIELD, BILLY BOY ARNOLD - hcas, ELVIN BISHOP - gtr. Eelectric session (1967): JAMES COTTON - hca/voc, LUTHER TUCKER - gtr, ALBERTO GIANQUINTO - pno, ROBERT ANDERSON -...

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James Cotton: Hold Me In Your Arms b-w Cotton Crup Blues 7inch, 45rpm
Art-Nr.: REP03062

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blues blaster - nice!

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James Cotton: Live At Antone's
Art-Nr.: CDANT2502

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(2015/Texas Music Group) 8 tracks.

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James Cotton: Mighty Long Time
Art-Nr.: CDANT2501

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(2015/Texas Music Group) 16 tracks. New edition of the Antone's classic from the 1990s with 4 bonus tracks!

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James Cotton: Chicago Harp Showdown
Art-Nr.: CD061985

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(2013/Fuel 2000) 18 tracks. 2013 release from the Blues great, a collection of 18 carefully selected rarities from the archives of Alligence Records. All tracks remastered from the original tapes.

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James Cotton: Buddah Blues: Live & On The Move / High Energy / 100 % Cotton (3-CD)
Art-Nr.: CDFLOAT6331

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(Floating World) 40 tracks. This 3CD set combines three original albums that Cotton recorded for Buddah Records: The powerful double LP live album 'Live & On The Move' (1976), 'High Energy' (1975) produced by Allen Toussaint and '100% Cotton' (1974), which is one...

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James Cotton: My Baby b-w Straighten Up Baby 7inch, 45rpm
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blues blaster - nice!

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