Jimmy Dawkins dies, leaves Chicago blues legacy

Jimmy Dawkins dies: A Chicago guitarist, known as Jimmy 'Fast Fingers' Dawkins, helped pioneer a percussive, aggressive West Side style, in contrast to the mellower grooves of South Side Blues.

(AP Photo/Sun-Times Media, Joe Puchek)
Blues guitarist Jimmy "Fast Fingers" Dawkins performing at Bluesfest in Chicago's Grant Park in 2011. Dawkins, known for his excellent guitar playing and mellow singing voice, died Wednesday, April 10, 2013.

Chicago bluesman Jimmy "Fast Fingers" Dawkins, known for his excellent guitar playing and mellow singing voice, has died. He was 76.

Delmark Records owner Bob Koester said Dawkins died Wednesday. The cause of death wasn't immediately known.

Dawkins was born in Mississippi. An only child, Dawkins taught himself to play guitar before moving to Chicago in the 1950s.

Koester says Dawkins began playing Chicago's blues clubs in the 1960s, gaining a reputation as an excellent side man and playing with such notables as Otis Rush and Buddy Guy.

The Chicago Sun Times wrote:

Fans say Mr. Dawkins helped pioneer a percussive, aggressive West Side style, in contrast to the mellower grooves of South Side Blues artists like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf.

“He had a hard, driving sound,” said Michael Frank, owner of the Earwig label, where Mr. Dawkins also recorded.

“The South Side is more harmonica, and, possibly, horn-driven,” said guitarist Billy Flynn, who started playing with Mr. Dawkins when Flynn was a starstruck 14-year-old. “West Side Blues is more guitar-driven — say, Buddy Guy vs. Sonny Boy Williamson.”

Dawkins recorded his first album on the Delmark label in 1969.

Koester says the album boosted Dawkins' reputation, particularly in Europe and Japan, where he toured frequently. Dawkins also was a frequent contributor to Living Blues magazine.

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