Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Wild Jimmy Spruill -- "Hard Grind"

Okay, your old Raggedy is in the mood for some blues. I've never heard of this blues man before -- but already I am in love with his guitar.

James "Jimmy" Spruill was born June 9, 1934 in Fayetteville NC. to sharecropping parents. Influenced by country and blues music as a child, he learned playing the guitar on a cigar box guitar.

The Wiki article about this instrument makes for an interesting read. 

His trademark was the modified Les Paul Gibson guitar. The body of the guitar was sawed off so that only a rectangular part of it was left. 

After moving to NYC, he worked as a session musician recording with such greats as King Curtis, Elmore James and Little Anthony and the Imperials. 

Spruill was a showman, known for playing guitar with his teeth.[2] His sound was unconventional, notable for its hard attack and sense of freedom, unexpectedly going from assertive lead parts to rhythmically dynamic, scratching rhythms. At no time did Spruill use picks or any effects on his guitar - his sound was solely the result of his fingers.[citation needed] Among his most interesting solo records is "Hard Grind" (Fire 1006), which was originally issued as the B-side to "Kansas City March. (Wiki)
That perfect blues voice on the song does not belong to Jimmy Spruill as I erroneously said. According to my friend and blues specialist, Marc, it is that of one Little Danny, a rather obscure artist.

In the mid 60's he formed a trio with Tommy Knight singing and Popsy Dixon on drums. Unfortunately, his career never really took off. Lady luck does not always favor the talented.

He died from a heart attack in 1996 while traveling home to NYC from Florida.

Hard Grind


Marc said...

Hello Inge,

The obscure Little Danny is the vocalist on 'Mind On Loving You'.Jimmy Spruill recorded a one-off vocal novelty:the country & western flavoured 'Country Boy'.In 1993 I had the great pleasure witnessing the 'Bobby Robinson R &B Revue" featuring pianist Bob Gaddy,guitarists Larry Dale and Wild Jimmy Spruill,and one Dr Horse.


Raggedy said...

Hi Marc,

thanks for the correction. Sorry, I was sloppy researching -- again. Your input is greatly appreciated.

Marc said...


I stumbled upon an interview with Wild Jimmy Spruill.Here he talks about his guitar and his peculiar sound.

MP: You have a very unusual streamlined guitar.It's got no "ears" on it.I suspect that maybe you customized it yourself.

WJS: What I did is,a guitar guy,a friend of mine,gave it to me,name of Scotty,live out in Long Island,he give me the guitar.It was too heavy.I take my saw and just go zhooom.Hold on,let me show you what I did to it.I cut it down.

MP: What did did this used to be? A Les Paul?

WJS: A Professional Gibson Les Paul.Yes.

MP: Did you change anything with the electronics yourself?

WJS: Yes.A lot of them.I always change them.I don't like what they do,so I do 'em my way.

MP: You got a nice,incredibily audible,bright sound out of your...

WJS: Yeah,well that my fingers. I like the clear sound.I don't like that,you know,distortion sound.My ears are very sensitive.I'm sensitive anyway.I don't like noise.I like music.

(Wild Jimmy Spruill - 'You Got to Move the Soul First' - Interview by Margey Peeters - Living Blues # 115 / June 1994)

P.S.:Check out his scorching solo on Tarheel Slim's 'N° 9 Train'.
And his subtle backing on June Bateman's 'Believe Me Darling'.