Today's Articles

People, Locations, Episodes

Sun, 02.20.1898

Mr. Boogie Woogie, James Yancey born

James Yancey (1935)

*James Yancey was born on this date in 1898. He was a Black blues and Boogie-Woogie musician.

From Chicago, James Edward Yancey was largely a self-taught pianist, with some instruction from his brother Alonzo. He had a childhood career as a singer and dancer, touring American vaudeville circuits and European music halls.  He gave a command performance for King George V of England in 1913. Returning to Chicago, Yancey played at small taverns and informal gatherings. He also played baseball in the Negro leagues until 1919, when he married Estella Harris (Mama Yancey), who sang with him at house parties throughout the 1920s, '30s, and '40s.

They had three recording sessions together and performed on network radio in 1939 and at Carnegie Hall in New York City in 1948.   As an African American blues pianist, he established the boogie-woogie style with slow, steady, simple left-hand bass patterns. These became more rapid in the work of his students Albert Ammons and Meade "Lux" Lewis, who popularized the "Yancey Special."

Uniquely, from 1925 until his death, Yancey worked as a groundskeeper at the Chicago White Sox baseball stadium; he died on. Sept. 17, 1951.  Yancey's influence on other musicians was profound. Still, his music was known to only a small coterie during his lifetime. Mama Yancey continued to perform and record, working with pianists Little Brother Montgomery and Erwin Helfer. She sang at Carnegie Hall again in 1981.

To Become a Musician or Singer


The Encyclopedia Britannica, Fifteenth Edition.
Copyright 1996 Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.
ISBN 0-85229-633-0

Photo credit:
Yancey 1935,
Frank Driggs Collection/Copyright Archive Photos

New Poem Each Day

Poetry Corner

He waltzes into the lane ‘cross the free-throw line, Fakes a drive pivots, floats from the asphalt turf in an arc of black light, and sinks two in the chains. One on... MAKIN’ JUMP SHOTS by Michael S. Harper.
Read More