I began interviewing Jimmy McCracklin in the late 1990s for our blues/jazz series of oral histories, and in 2004 I collaborated with Ronnie Stewart, bluesman and director of Bay Area Blues Society and filmmaker on a short film documentary about McCracklin’s life. The film, entitled “Jimmy Sings the Blues,” premiered at the International Oakland Film Festival in 2004 and had many showings at festivals and theaters such as Mill Valley’s Throckmorton.
B.B. King and Bonnie Raitt, great McCracklin fans, appeared in the film, and Jimmy was highly pleased to hear B.B. call him “the greatest living blues writer and author of his signature song “The Thrill is Gone.” Many of McCracklin’s songs were pirated before he and his Blues Blasters began recording with Checker Records in the late 1950s. About the same time, “The Walk,” covered by the Beatles and many others, made it to Billboard’s top ten and got him a gig on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand.”
“There is no West Coast blues, and no East Coast blues, the blues is just a feeling,” McCracklin said, “and I’ve had the blues feeling all my life.”
by Caroline Crawford
ROHO Music Lead Interviewer
Music and Dance Oral History Series
Arts in California oral histories featuring audio and video excerpts