Chicago bluesman Jimmy “Fast Fingers” Dawkins, known for his stellar guitar playing and mellow singing voice, has died. He was 76.
Delmark Records owner Bob Koester said Friday that Dawkins died Wednesday. The cause of death wasn’t immediately known.
James Henry Dawkins was born in Tchula, Miss. An only child, Dawkins taught himself to play guitar before moving to Chicago in the 1950s.
Koester said Dawkins did not begin his music career immediately, working instead in a box factory before taking to Chicago’s streets to play for tips. He formed a band in the 1960s and began working Chicago’s blues clubs, gaining a reputation as an excellent side man and playing with such notables as Otis Rush and Buddy Guy.
Dawkins first album, “Fast Fingers,” released on the Delmark label in 1969, boosted Dawkins’ reputation, particularly in Europe and Japan, where he toured frequently.
“He didn’t like his nickname,” Koester said. “It gave the impression that he played only upbeat music.”
Dawkins performed a style of music known as the West Side Chicago blues – a mellower sound that reflected his Mississippi roots, instead of the harder-edged sounds of the city’s South Side.
“His voice was feathery, soft,” Koester said. “He wasn’t a shouter, which is unusual in blues.” He noted blues singers had to shout to be heard in the early days because they didn’t have amplifiers, and the affectation continues.
In addition to performing, Dawkins was a frequent contributor to Living Blues magazine.