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The Amazing Jimmi Mayes

Sideman to the Stars

Jimmi Mayes

Publication Year: 2014

For more than fifty years, Chicago drummer Jimmi Mayes served as a sideman behind some of the greatest musicians and musical groups in history. He began his career playing the blues in the juke joints of Mississippi, sharpened his trade under the mentorship of drum legends Sam Lay and Fred Below in the steamy nightclubs of south Chicago, and hit it big in New York City behind such music legends as Tommy Hunt from the Flamingos, Marvin Gaye, and James Brown.

Mayes played his drums behind blues giants Little Walter Jacobs, Jimmy Reed, Robert Junior Lockwood, Earl Hooker, Junior Wells, Pinetop Perkins, and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. He lived for a while with Motown sensation Martha Reeves and her family and traveled with the Shirelles and the Motown Review. Jimi Hendrix was one of Mayes's best friends, and they traveled together with Joey Dee and the Starliters in the mid-1960s.

Mayes lived through racial segregation, the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the integration of rock bands, and the emergence of Motown. He personally experienced the sexual and moral revolutions of the sixties, was robbed of his musical royalties, and survived a musical drought. He's been a pimp and a drug pusher--and lived to tell the tale when so many musicians have not. This sideman to the stars witnessed music history from the best seat in the house--behind the drum set.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-2

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Chapter 1: That Blues Shuffle, 1942–60

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pp. 3-14

Compared to most, I’ve lived an unusual life, lived in a lot of places, and loved a lot of beautiful women. I’ve been a drummer behind some of the greatest musicians and musical groups in history. Little Walter Jacobs, the best harmonica player who ever lived, called me his son...

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Chapter 2: Little Walter, 1961–62

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pp. 15-25

I graduated from high school in 1960, when I was eighteen, and went straight to work in Chicago at R. R. Donnelly where my parents worked. It was a printing company, and my mother was a bookbinder. She worked the day shift, while my father worked the midnight shift on one of the big machines...

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Chapter 3: Tommy Hunt, 1962–63

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pp. 26-42

About that time, a blues piano player by the name of Tall Paul Hankins contacted me to play drums with him up on 63rd Street. Now, 63rd was famous for all kinds of music—not just the blues. I played at the Club Arden, which had rhythm and blues. It was right next door to a...

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Chapter 4: Joey Dee and the Starliters, 1964–65

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pp. 43-57

The New York Baby Grand where Tommy was scheduled to play that night was a bar in Harlem, about four blocks down the street from the Apollo Theater. Marvin Gaye opened that same night at Small’s Paradise, a nightclub about four blocks on the other side of the Apollo, at 7th Avenue...

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Chapter 5: Martha and the Vandellas, 1964–65

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pp. 58-69

Joey had already hired a drummer to take my place with the Starliters, so I bummed around for a few days looking for gigs. One night I went to the Peppermint Lounge where my friend Martha Reeves was scheduled to perform. The Vandellas were practicing, and Martha was trying to tell the drummer in the house band how her music should go. She...

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Chapter 6: Jimi Hendrix, September 1965–December 1965

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pp. 70-87

Just before I joined the Starliters the first time, several of the Starliters (Eddie Brigati, Felix Cavaliere, and Gene Cornish) got together and formed a new music group called the Young Rascals. They were still on good terms with Joey, and they would come to the club all the time. We just got back from Chicago when Sam Taylor also turned in his notice...

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Chapter 7: My Friend, 1966–70

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pp. 88-101

So, I stayed with Joey Dee and the Starliters, and Jimi joined up with Curtis Knight and the Squires. Jimi was doing okay. He was a good guitar player, he had connections, and he had spending money from prostitutes. The Squires used to play the Lighthouse on Broadway, and I used to walk there on nights when I was in town...

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Chapter 8: The Kousins, Shirelles, and Blood Brothers, 1966–69

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pp. 102-115

After awhile, I got tired of the Starliters. We were making money, but I wasn’t going anywhere careerwise. I had already started my own band, the Kousins, on the side, and it looked like things were going to take off for us. So, I handed in my two-week notice...

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Chapter 9: Mill Street Depo, 1969—72

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pp. 116-130

When I saw Lockett, I got my creative spirit back again, and I had the confidence that I could form another band. Sam Taylor and I had stayed tight after he left the Starliters. So I called and said, “Sam, I want to form a band again.”...

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Chapter 10: Sweet Home Chicago, 1972–2001

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pp. 131-146

I didn’t play drums for about four months after I got back home to Chicago. Lockett and I just laid around drinking fifths of hundred- proof Old Grand Dad whiskey, trying to drown out all those bad memories. Knowing I’d been on top and had come to rock bottom—that...

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Chapter 11: Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, 1997–2011

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pp. 147-157

I really didn’t do much drumming between 1980 and 2000. I worked as a freelancer now and then behind some of the great Chicago blues players, and I was part of Street Heat. But the pain in my hips kept me down. I had two surgeries in the 1980s, that experimental operation...

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Chapter 12: Back Where I Belong, 2011–2012

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pp. 158-166

Back in Jackson, Mississippi, when I was fourteen years old, I had no idea what my life was going to be like. I hadn’t thought about it, because I was more interested in girls than anything else. It’s hard to think that far back, but I know I didn’t think I would meet all those famous people and go all those places...

Jimmi Mayes Discography

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p. 167-167

Selected Discography

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pp. 168-175


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pp. 176-182


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pp. 183-198

E-ISBN-13: 9781617039164
E-ISBN-10: 162103996X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781621039969

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2014