Jimmie Lee Robinson
@ The Whole Music Club, April 3, 1997

This is the 4th installment in our continuing review of the outstanding University of the Blues Series held this spring at the University of Minnesota.

Robinson started playing the guitar at the age of 11 on Maxwell Street in 1942. He grew up just a few blocks away from this rich musical melting pot. He said they played country & western and blues during this time and it was all pretty much the same. He formed an early partnership with Eddie Taylor playing in clubs for a few dollars a night. During the early 50's he was part of the Every Hour Blues Boys band with Frank Scott and a young Freddy King on guitar. In the mid 50's he played with Elmore James and then joined Little Walter's band staying with him until around 1959. Jimmie began his solo recording career in '58, and around '60 had a fairly big regional hit called "All My Life", which has been covered by John Mayall and a bunch of others. He was on the '65 American Folk Blues Festival tour of Europe, and recorded there with John Lee Hooker, Eddie Boyd and Buddy Guy (he also had Buddy on bass behind him on a great song called "Rosalie"). He later played with Howlin Wolf for a short time, but retired from music and held a day job except for weekends and occasional tours until around 1991 when he started playing regularly again. He recorded a CD called "Lonely Traveler" on Delmark in '93, and recently released a self-produced CD called "Guns, Gangs, and Drugs" on his own Amina label. These days he works mainly as a solo singer/guitarist, and this is what's mainly featured on his new CD. There's also an unreleased CD worth of music with full electric Chicago-style band backing him that's looking for a record label.

Jimmie just turned 66 on April 30th. and is proud of the fact that he is one of the original Chicago born blues players. He has been holding down the afternoon spot at the new Chicago House Of Blues since it opened last year and is one of Chicago's hidden blues treasures.

During his show in Minneapolis Jimmie wore his spurs and had his foot tapping and spur jingling to the rhythms of this songs that was infectious. He also offered some fine whistling. His voice has a wide range from the low guttural growl and moan like John Lee Hooker to some beautiful melodic highs. He has a very good ballad singing voice. He played a mixture of country, rags, blues and soul with even a polka thrown in for good measure. He played a very smooth slide guitar on "Got My Mojo Working". His "Baby Please Don't Go" was done in the old slide style of raw country blues. His "Big Boss Man" had a John Lee Hooker meets Jimmy Reed sound to it. His Sam Cooke's classic Sentimental Reasons was like a fresh summer breeze. One of the captivating ballads he sang was "So Long" from his new album "Guns, Gangs and Drugs."

During the show Jimmie Lee was very open and offered some interesting insights on the blues and his experiences of playing over the past 50 years. He gave an interesting account of the origins of the song "Hide Away" and talked about playing with a very young Freddie King and Magic Sam.

One of his first single recordings from the late 50's was "The Lonesome Traveler", the song he got his current nick name from. Somehow during the passing years it got changed to the" Lonely Traveler."

Jimmie Lee is a very engaging performer. He was very friendly and loved playing for us. He said later that he wanted to put on a show we would remember. Well we sure did remember and want to hear more from him in the future. If you are in Chicago be sure to stop by the HOB's for one of his lunch time shows and say hi.

Thanks to Scott Dirks from Chicago for some of the background material in this review.

Mailbox E-mail Ray Stiles at: mnblues@aol.com

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