Chicago guitarist Jimmy Dawkins would just as soon leave his longtime nickname “Fast Fingers” behind. It was always something of a stylistic misnomer anyway; Dawkins’s West Side-styled guitar slashes and surges, but seldom burns with incendiary speed. Dawkins’s blues are generally of the brooding, introspective variety — he doesn’t engage in flashy pyrotechnics or outrageous showmanship.
It took a long time for Dawkins to progress from West Side fixture to nationally known recording artist. He rode a Greyhound bus out of Mississippi in 1955, dressed warm to ward off the Windy City’s infamous chill factor. Only trouble was, he arrived on a sweltering July day! Harpist Billy Boy Arnold offered the newcomer encouragement, and he eventually carved out a niche on the competitive West Side scene (his peers included Magic Sam and Luther Allison).
Sam introduced Dawkins to Delmark Records boss Bob Koester. Fast Fingers, Dawkins’s 1969 debut LP for Delmark–still his best album to date–was a taut, uncompromising piece of work that won the Grand Prix du Disque de Jazz from the Hot Club of France in 1971 as the year’s top album. Andrew “Big Voice” Odom shared the singing and Otis Rush the second guitar duties on Dawkins’s 1971 encore All for Business. But after his Delmark LP Blisterstring, Dawkins’s subsequent recordings lacked intensity until 1991′s oddly titled Kant Sheck Dees Bluze for Chicago’s Earwig Records. After that, Dawkins waxed discs for Ichiban and Fedora, and continued to tour extensively.
-Written by Bill Dahl