Yank Rachell Biography

James Rachell, 16 March 1910, Brownsville, Tennessee, USA, d. 9 April 1997. Rachell learned mandolin from his uncle Daniel Taylor and later extended his talents to include guitar, harmonica and violin. He worked on the L&N railroad as a track hand in his early years, supplementing his income by playing local dances and parties in the company of local artists such as Hambone Willie Newbern. Rachell seems to have been doubling as a talent scout when he recorded with Sleepy John Estes in 1929. Later, he formed a partnership with Dan Smith and worked on record with John Lee ‘Sonny Boy’ Williamson. Recordings under his own name appeared on labels such as Victor Records, Vocalion Records and Banner and between 1938 and 1941 he recorded 24 titles for the famous Bluebird Records label. Despite all this activity Rachell was never able to survive as a full-time musician and often worked as a farmer. He returned to music, along with Estes and Hammie Nixon, with the revival of interest in blues in the early 60s. During that period he appeared at festivals, clubs and concerts, and recorded again for Delmark Records in 1964. He had completed a new album shortly before his death in April 1997.

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

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