Jimmy Witherspoon died aged seventy-seven from throat cancer on 18th September 1997, in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
Jimmy Witherspoon was born in Gurdon, Arkansas, U.S.A. He first attracted attention singing in Calcutta, India, with Teddy Weatherford's band, which made regular radio broadcasts over the U.S. Armed Forces Radio Service during World War II. Witherspoon made his first records with Jay McShann's band in 1945. He first recorded under his own name in 1947, and two years later with the McShann band, he had his first hit, "Ain't Nobody's Business," a song that came to be regarded as his signature tune. In 1950 he had hits with two more songs closely identified with him—"No Rollin' Blues" and "Big Fine Girl"—and also with "Failing by Degrees" and "New Orleans Woman", recorded with the Gene Gilbeaux Orchestra for Modern Records. These were recorded at a live performance on May 10th, 1949, at a "Just Jazz" concert in Pasadena, California, sponsored by Gene Norman. Another classic Witherspoon composition is "Times Gettin' Tougher Than Tough".
Jimmy Witherspoon's style of blues, that of the "blues shouter", became unfashionable in the mid-1950s, but he returned to popularity with his 1959 album Jimmy Witherspoon at the Monterey Jazz Festival, which features Roy Eldridge, Woody Herman, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Earl Hines and Mel Lewis, among others. Jimmy Witherspoon later recorded with Gerry Mulligan, Leroy Vinnegar, Richard "Groove" Holmes and T-Bone Walker.
In 1961 Jimmy toured Europe with Buck Clayton and returned to the UK on many occasions, featuring on a mid-'60s live UK recording, Spoon Sings and Swings in 1966, with tenor sax player Dick Morrissey's quartet. In 1970, Jimmy Witherspoon appeared on Brother Jack McDuff's London Blue Note recording To Seek a New Home together with British jazz musicians, including Dick Morrissey, again, and Terry Smith. In the 1970s Jimmy Witherspoon also recorded the album Guilty! , later released on CD as Black & White Blues, with Eric Burdon and featuring Ike White & the San Quentin Prison Band. He then toured with a band of his own featuring Robben Ford and Russ Ferrante. A recording from this period, Spoonful, featured Witherspoon accompanied by Robben Ford, Joe Sample, Cornell Dupree, Thad Jones and Bernard Purdie. He continued performing and recording into the 1990s.