Who was/is Wild Jimmy Spurill ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more

Wild Jimmy Spurill

Even if Fire Records owner Bobby Robinson didn’t get his surname quite right on this hair-raising 1959 instrumental, he got one crucial thing right about Jimmy Spruill: his slashing axe is ‘Wild’ indeed on Hard Grind.

Spruill was one of the busier studio guitarists in New York during the late 1950s and early ‘60s, his chopping, scratchy rhythm feel as instantly identifiable as his stinging solos. He was born June 9, 1934 in Washington, North Carolina, spending time in Virginia and Maryland before settling in New York in June of 1955. Inspired by a Roy Rogers Western movie, Spruill made his first axe out of a cigar box and a rubber band when he was 12, graduating to a hollow-body Harmony and then a Stella. It only took him a few weeks to master the instrument. Forming a band called the Hellraisers, he gigged at the Central Barroom on 125th Street in Harlem.

Robinson’s brother Danny put Spruill behind guitarist Charles Walker on the Holiday label for Walker’s two-part instrumental Driving Home in 1956, perhaps his first sideman session. Jimmy appeared on many Fire/Fury dates, none more beneficial to his reputation than the one that produced Wilbert Harrison’s across-the-board ‘59 chart-topper Kansas City (see Disc Two). Spruill played on saxman King Curtis’ first Atco LP in ’59, and inserted a fiery solo on Dave ‘Baby’ Cortez’s ‘59 smash The Happy Organ

Fury tried to cash in on Jimmy’s contributions to Harrison’s hit by cutting an instrumental version called Kansas City March very shortly thereafter; Hard Grind graced the other side (his band reportedly included Alden ‘Tarheel Slim’ Bunn on the other guitar, pianist Horace Cooper, and drummer John Robertson). A handful of followup singles for Clock, Cee-Jay, Everlast, Vim, and Enjoy also nominated Spruill as a dynamic, distinctive soloist.

After many years of musical inactivity, Spruill waged something of a comeback on the New York club circuit with fellow guitarist Larry Dale and pianist Bob Gaddy (both of whom he’d recorded behind during his heyday) prior to his February 3, 1996 death while on a Greyhound bus en route to Fayetteville, North Carolina.


Bill Dahl
Chicago, Illinois


Electric Blues 1939-2005. - The Definitive Collection!


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More information about Wild Jimmy Spurill on Wikipedia.org

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