John Brim was a fixture in
the Chicago blues scene of the 50's. Although his musical career
began long before and has continued for 5 decades, 1950 through
1956 saw Brim involved with the cream of Chicago's working and
recording musicians. In no less than 35 recordings for a half
dozen labels, John Brim solidified his place in blues history
with classics such as Ice Cream Man, Rattlesnake and Tough Times.
John Brim was born April 10th,
1922 near Hopkinsville, Kentucky. His interest in the blues started
soon thereafter. Influenced by the records of Tampa Red, Peetie
Wheatstraw, and Big Bill Broonzy, Brim started to teach himself
Playing on the streets of nearby
Crofton and Elkton, John soon met and teamed up with guitarist
Homer Wilson.In 1941, at age 19, John and Homer left Kentucky
for Indianapolis to look for work. After going their separate
ways, John decided to learn to play the guitar. One of his early
mentors was Harmon Ray, a.k.a. Peetie Wheatstraw's Buddy. Another
early teacher was Pete Franklin, who introduced Brim to Scrapper
Blackwell. Brim also spent a lot of time watching Champion Jack
Dupree's guitarist, Jessie Eldridge. He also met Dr. Clayton,
whom he would work with later in Chicago.
By late 1945, Brim decided
to take his voice and guitar to Chicago. Almost immediately he
met and began working with John Lee Sonny Boy Williamson and
Dr. Clayton. Brim also reunited with Homer Wilson. During the
next 5 years, Brim met and worked with the founding members of
the Chicago blues scene, as well as the "old guard"
that was still influencing the younger artists. Muddy Waters,
Little Walter, Willie Mabon, Memphis Minnie, Big Bill Broonzy,
Tampa Red, Earl Hooker, and Big Maceo all crossed paths with
Brim during this time.
In 1947 John married Grace,
after meeting her one-year earlier in Chicago. Grace sang, blew
harp, and at John's urging, played the drums. With the help of
weekly lessons from Odie Payne, Grace soon became an accomplished
drummer and co-performer with her husband. The two played the
club circuit in Chicago and Gary with a variety of musicians.
The Brims are also credited with giving Jimmy Reed one of his
first gigs when another player failed to show.
In 1950, Big Maceo invited
the Brims to record with him in Detroit for Fortune records.
This was the first recording session for the pair, and they released
Strange Man/Mean Man Blues (Fortune 801).The next two years saw
John and Grace involved in another dozen recordings with J.O.B.
With a succession of piano players including Big Maceo Merriweather,
Sunnyland Slim, and Roosevelt Sykes, the Brims created a formidable
By the time 1953 rolled around
Brim was recording for the Chess, Checker, and Parrot labels,
working in the studio with Little Walter, Louis and Dave Myers,
Jimmy Reed, Fred Below, Eddie Taylor, and the Dalton brothers
(W.C. and James). He even played guitar on Albert King's first
release. During the sessions at Chess, Brim recorded Rattlesnake,
It Was A Dream, Lifetime Baby, and Ice Cream Man.
Near the end of that year,
Brim, his wife Grace on drums, Jimmy Reed on harp and Eddie Taylor
on guitar, had a big hit with Tough Times/Gary Stomp on the Parrot
label. As a result of the success of Tough Times and at the insistence
of Little Walter Jacobs, Chess invited Brim back in the studio
in late '55 and early '56. These sessions produced two more classics,
I Would Hate To See You Go (Be Careful) and (You Got Me) Where
You Want Me.
Unfortunately, a disagreement
with the powerful Chess label led to many of these classic recordings
being shelved for over 15 years, dramatically slowing Brim's
recording and performing career. Listening to his last sessions
for Chess with Little Walter on harp, Willie Dixon, Fred Below,
and Robert JR Lockwood one can only wonder how far Brim would
have gone had they been released and promoted at the time. When
most of these songs were eventually released, their status as
classics was recognized immediately.
Throughout the '60's and '70's
Brim continued to perform in and around the Midwest, appearing
in local clubs and blues festivals.
After a 15-year break, Brim
ventured back into the recording business briefly in 1971 with
his wife Grace and son John Jr. Together they wrote and recorded
You Put The Hurt On Me/Movin' Out on their own label.
Another 18 years would pass
before Brim entered the studio again. This time teaming with
old friend Pinetop Perkins, as well as Willie Kent, Billy Branch
and John Primer, Brim recorded four songs for the Wolf label.
Also included on the '89 release were the two songs Brim recorded
in '71 with his wife and son.
In 1994, Brim joined with Muddy
Waters alumni guitarist Bob Margolin and harpist Jerry Portnoy,
and a number of other musicians to record his first solo CD,
Ice Cream Man (Tone Cool 1150). W.C. Handy nominated for best
Traditional Blues Album of the Year, the session included 7 new
Sadly, in June of 1999, Grace
Brim passed away.
In 2000, 50 years after his
first recordings, John Brim stepped into the studio once more.
With guitar played by Billy Flynn, and the backing of his road
band, "The Tough Time Boys", Brim delivers eight new
songs on Jake's Blues (Anna Bea CD 499). Also released by Anna
Bea Records is Authorized Blues (ABCD 451), a remastering of
13 past Brim recordings, mostly from 1951 and 1952.
As a charter member of the
Chicago blues scene, John Brim has consistently shown through
his music that he is truly a BLUES LEGEND !
Jan Arenas, The
Tough Time Boys
His New CD from
Anna Bea Records (2000)
John Brim with Tough Time Boys
(Anna Bea Records ABCD 499)
- Tougher Times
- Walkin' With Grace
- What May Be Your Name
- You Put The Hurt On Me
- I Just Got To Know
- Dedicated To Grace (Part 1)
- Boogie Home
- No Place I Go
- Hey Baby
- Movin' Out Too
- Dedicated To Grace (Part 2)
- (Grace Brim singing)
Get the CD from Anna
Vocal and Guitar,
His Random, J.O.B.
and BB Recordings
Authorized Blues (his Random and JOB Recordings)
(Anna Bea Records ABCD 451)
- Dark Colouds
- Lonesome Man Blues
- Going Down The Line
- Young And Wild
- Love My Baby
- Trouble In The Morning
- Humming Blues
- Hard Pill To Swallow
- Drinking Woman
- Don't Leave Me
- Moonlight Blues
- Moving Out
- You Put The Hurt On Me
(1) Dark Clouds-1 Random
(2) Lonesome Man Blues-1 Random 201
(3) Going Down The Line-2 Random 202
V-1/g with Gracie Brim, v-2; Roosevelt Sykes, p Chicago, 1951
(4) Young And Wild
(5) I Love My Baby
(6) Trouble In The Morning JOB 110
(7) Humming Blues-1 JOB 110
V/g with Sunnyland Slim, humming-1/p; Moody Jones, b. Chicago,
27, Sep 1951
(8) Hard Pill To Swallow-1,4
(9) Drinking Woman-1 JOB 1011
V-1/g with Grace Brim, v-2/hca-3/d; Sunnyland Slim, p; Prob Eddie
Taylor, g-4; unk b. Chicago, 22 Aug 1952
(10) Don't leave Me
(11) Moonlight Blues
V/g with Ernest Cotton, ts; Sunnyland Slim, p; Pete Franklin,
g; Big Crawford, b; Alfred Wallace, d. Chicago, late 1952
(12) Moving Out
Get the CD from Anna
(13) You Put The Hurt On Me
V/g with John Brim Jr., g/b; Grace Brim, d. 1971