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The Amazing Jimmi Mayes

The Amazing Jimmi Mayes: Sideman to the Stars

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    The Amazing Jimmi Mayes
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-1-62103-996-9
    Subjects: History, Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
    (pp. IX-2)
  4. 1 THAT BLUES SHUFFLE 1942–60
    (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. Tommy Hunt from the Flamingos gave me his last name and called me his brother. I lived for a time with Motown sensation Martha Reeves and her family. I traveled with the Shirelles and the Motown Revue, and I played Shea Stadium behind James Brown. I used to buy reefer...

  5. 2 LITTLE WALTER 1961–62
    (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.

    There was a cafeteria inside where the workers could eat. I was a bus boy, and I had a little white cap that I had to wear. I hated to wear it, because I had processed hair, and it messed up my do! I cleaned...

  6. 3 TOMMY HUNT 1962–63
    (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 jazz club called the Coral Club. Right next to the Coral Club was Club 13, which played blues and jazz. So, there were three clubs in one block playing five times a night. That’s the kind of entertainment they used to have in Chicago....

    (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 and 135th Street. Small’s Paradise was one of the most successful and best-known nightclubs in the history of Harlem.

    Fayne went out that night to see Marvin. They had been friends for a long time. She asked me if I wanted to go, but I didn’t want anybody...

    (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 saw me and said, “Jimmy, will you show him what to play?”

    I had never played behind Martha before, but I knew her music. I went up on the stage and showed the drummer how to do...

  9. 6 JIMI HENDRIX September 1965–December 1965
    (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.

    Joey pulled me aside and told me we needed to find a new guitar player. I was Joey’s bandleader. He was in charge up front with the singers, and I was in charge in back with...

  10. 7 MY FRIEND 1966–70
    (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.

    The minute I walked in, Curtis would call me out, “Joey Dee and the Starliters’ drummer is in the house, ladies and gentlemen.”

    They let me sit in sometimes. Then Jimi would lean over and say, “Yeah! Give me...

    (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.

    There’s a funny story behind the formation of the Kousins. At least a year earlier, back when Martha Reeves and I had that big misunderstanding, Cookie and I were living on 80th Street. One day, I was walking around the neighborhood with nothing to do, and I saw these kids in...

  12. 9 MILL STREET DEPO 1969–72
    (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.”

    Sam had been in the Kousins, too, along with Lockett. Even though the Kousins and I had disagreed, and I left the group, we had all remained friends.

    The Kousins didn’t last long after their gigs in Atlantic City, so I invited Big Al Levane to join the band. I had three girl...

  13. 10 SWEET HOME CHICAGO 1972–2001
    (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 was awful! I had to do something to keep from going crazy, but the whiskey didn’t do it—it just made it worse. That was a period when I really had to struggle to cope with what had happened. Lockett went back home to Texas, and I eventually got myself straightened...

  14. 11 WILLIE “BIG EYES” SMITH 1997–2011
    (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 called “spin the bone,” when they tried to switch around the good part and the bad part of the hip bone and then wire it in place. That didn’t work, so when I was just forty-one, I had my first hip replacement. Those hip operations laid me up...

  15. 12 BACK WHERE I BELONG 2011–2012
    (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.

    I don’t think any kid has a plan at that age, unless they are gifted. I hadn’t even picked up the drumsticks yet. I just did a show at the Chicago Blues Fest with the legendary Willie Buck....

    (pp. 167-167)
    (pp. 168-175)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 176-182)
  19. [Illustrations]
    (pp. 183-198)