Jimmy Rushing

Born 26 August 1901. Died 8 June 1972.
Jimmy Rushing

Biography

James Andrew Rushing (August 26, 1901 – June 8, 1972), known as Jimmy Rushing, was an American blues shouter, balladeer, and swing jazz singer from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States, best known as the featured vocalist of Count Basie's Orchestra from 1935 to 1948.

Rushing was known as "Mr. Five by Five" and was the subject of an eponymous 1942 popular song that was a hit for Harry James and others—the lyrics describing Rushing's rotund build: "he's five feet tall and he's five feet wide". He joined Walter Page's Blue Devils in 1927, then joined Bennie Moten's band in 1929. He stayed with the successor Count Basie band when Moten died in 1935.

Rushing said that his first time singing in front of an audience was in 1924. He was playing piano at a club when the featured singer, Carlyn Williams, invited him to do a vocal. "I got out there and broke it up. I was a singer from then on," he said.

Rushing was a powerful singer who had a range from baritone to tenor. He could project his voice so that it soared over the horn and reed sections in a big-band setting. Basie claimed that Rushing "never had an equal" as a blues vocalist, though Rushing "really thought of himself as a ballad singer." George Frazier, author of Harvard Blues, called Rushing's distinctive voice "a magnificent gargle". Dave Brubeck defined Rushing's status among blues singers as "the daddy of them all." Late in his life Rushing said of his singing style, "I don't know what kind of blues singer you'd call me. I just sing 'em" Among his best known recordings are "Going to Chicago" with Basie, and "Harvard Blues", with a famous saxophone solo by Don Byas.

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