Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Jazz vocalist James Andrew Rushing aka Jimmy Rushing was born in Oklahoma City,Oklahoma, on August 26, 1903.

Jimmy played in Southern California with Jelly Roll Morton, Harvey Brooks, and Paul Howard, 1920s; member of Walter Page Blue Devils band, 1927-29; joined Bennie Moten's orchestra, 1929-35; member of Count Basie Orchestra, 1935-50; toured with his own septet, 1950-52; as a solo act, 1952-72; Europe with Humphrey Littleton, Buck Clayton, Benny Goodman, 1961; Japan and Australia with Eddie Condon, 1964; appeared in film The Learning Tree, 1969; appeared at the Half Note in New York City playing with Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, early 1970s.

Jimmy Rushing, also known as "Mr. Five by Five," possessed a joyous, booming voice that could be clearly heard over the swinging jazz orchestras of the big band era and beyond. He began his career as a piano player in the 1920s, but soon found his voice. He made his name with the Count Basie Orchestra in the 1940s, and enjoyed an active career singing solo and with jazz and big-band greats such as Humphrey Lyttleton, Buck Clayton, Benny Goodman, Eddie Condon, Al Cohn, and Zoot Sims, among others.

He toured the United States and abroad, and his voice can be heard on countless recordings, including the most recent compilations The Essential Jimmy Rushing (1978), Mister Five by Five (1980), and The Classic Count (1982).

He came from a musical family; his father played trumpet, his mother and brother were singers, and his uncle played piano in a gambling house. Rushing played the violin as a child, but switched to piano when a cousin, Wesley Manning, began teaching him to play. He continued his music studies as a teen at Douglass High School in Oklahoma City. He was known in his younger days as "Little Jimmy," but earned the nickname "Mr. Five by Five" when he grew up--the name was descriptive of his short height and wide girth. The "official pianist" of Wilberforce University dances went on to earn his living as a pianist, and moved to California in the mid-1920s.

When asked about how he started singing after he had already begun his career as a pianist, Rushing recalled in "Jazz: The Essential Companion": "I could only play in three keys. After a time everything began to sound alike to me and it was then they told me to sing." Jazz: The Essential Companion went on to describe Rushing's voice as "surprisingly high, intense and with a dramatic, near-operatic vibrato."

Richard S. Ginnell wrote on the All Music Guide website that Rushing possessed a "booming voice that radiated sheer joy in whatever material he sang," and added that he could "dominate even the loudest of big bands." It was this voice, not Rushing's piano chops, that could be heard throughout Southern California with the likes of Jelly Roll Morton.

Reference - AAJ

Click to watch Jimmy singing the bluesy "I Left my Baby"

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