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Fri, 02.15.1901

Kokomo Arnold, Georgia Bluesman born

Kokomo Arnold

*Kokomo Arnold was born on this date in 1901. He was a Black blues musician.

From Lovejoy, Georgia, born James Arnold, he regarded his career as a recording artist as secondary to his work as a bootlegger.  A cousin, John Wiggs, taught him the basics of the guitar. Arnold drifted up North and worked as a farmhand in New York State and a steelworker in Pittsburgh before moving to Chicago in 1929 to set up his bootlegging enterprise. Arnold made his recording debut in 1930 in Memphis. He recorded two songs for the Victor label, Rainy Night Blues and Paddlin' Blues, under the name Gitfiddle Jim.

Though only a few copies sold, Arnold's first recordings detailed his powerful guitar and vocal style. The latter song was played with such speed that Kokomo's voice could hardly keep up with his fingers. A left-handed slide guitarist who influenced the likes of Robert Johnson, and others, Arnold made several memorable recordings in the 1930s using his intense slide technique. In 1934, he recorded two tracks for Decca, destined to become classics.

Not only did Old Kokomo Blues give Arnold his nickname and celebrity status in Chicago blues circles, but the song, based on Scrapper Blackwell's Kokomo Blues, was later reworked by Robert Johnson and re-titled 'Sweet Home Chicago". The second track, "Milk Cow Blues'', was interpreted by Elvis Presley in 1954 for Sun Records. Kokomo continued to cut tracks for Decca through the late '30s before fading from the blues public.

He was rediscovered in the early '60s by the young, mostly white folk audience but failed to take advantage of the new interest in blues like others did. Kokomo Arnold died of a heart attack on November 8, 1968

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All About Blues

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Nothing But the Blues The Music and the Musicians
Edited by Lawrence Cohn
Copyright 1993 Abbeville Publishing Group, New York
ISBN 1-55859-271-7

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