Jimmy Yancey Biography

James Edward Yancey, 20 February 1898, Chicago, Illinois, USA, d. 17 September 1951, Chicago, Illinois, USA. While still a small child Yancey appeared in vaudeville as a tap dancer and singer. After touring the USA and Europe he abandoned this career and, just turned 20, settled in Chicago where he taught himself to play piano. He began to appear at rent parties and informal club sessions, gradually building a reputation. Nevertheless, in 1925, he decided that music was an uncertain way to earn a living and took a job as groundsman with the city’s White Sox baseball team. He continued to play piano and was one of the prime movers in establishing the brief popularity of boogie-woogie. He made many records and played clubs and concerts, often accompanying his wife, singer Mama Yancey, but retained his job as groundsman until shortly before his death in 1951. Although Yancey’s playing style was elementary, he played with verve and dash, and if he fell behind such contemporaries as Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson in technique, he made up most of the deficiencies through sheer enthusiasm.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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