Sunday, December 23, 2012

Jimmy "The Walk" McCracklin Has Died

Jimmy McCracklin, best known for his 1958 hit, "The Walk" (#7 pop, #5 R&B), died Thursday (December 20, 2012) at a health facility in San Pablo, California after battling illnesses like diabetes and hypertension for years. Though he often disputed it, he was 91. 

Born in Helena, Arkansas as James Walker, he grew up in St. Louis. Serving in the Navy during World War II, he then returned home to box professionally while singing and playing blues harmonica on the side. Moving to Oakland in 1947, he worked at his sister-in-law's bar there, forming a band called the Blues Blasters in 1949. Recording for over a decade with little success for labels like Globe and Modern, he and his band (billed simply as "his band") recorded "The Walk" for Checker Records while working in Chicago (with distinctive guitar riffs from Lafayette "Thing" Thomas). 

Despite some success on the R&B charts, it was four more years before he reached the pop charts again, with "Just Got To Know" for his own Art-tone Records(#64 pop, #2 R&B in 1962). Joining the Imperial label, he reached the bottom ten of the pop charts three times in 1965 at which time his legacy was already established as a blues great. Perhaps his biggest hit was a song he wrote with Lowell Fulson and later a hit for Carla Thomas & Otis Redding and even later for Salt-n-Pepa- "Tramp." He was given the Pioneer Award by the Rhythm & Blues Foundation in 1990.