JAMES "Kokomo"










Slide guitar specialist James 'Kokomo' Arnold was born in Georgia, but didn't start performing until he moved to Buffalo in the early 1920's. He got his nickname from "Kokomo", a brand of coffee and one which Francis "Scrapper" Blackwell sang about in his first recorded blues in 1928. Arnold released a version of this number as "Old Original Kokomo Blues" in 1934, and thus he acquired a new name. Arnold lived for a while in Mississippi, and he made his first recordings in 1930 for Victor in Memphis, using the name "Gitfiddle Jim." However his main source of income was bootlegging and performing music was just a sideline. Nonetheless he developed a distinctive style of bottleneck slide guitar and blues singing that set him apart from his contemporaries. In the late 1920's he moved to Chicago, which was both good for his music and the bootlegging business. However the end of prohibition put him, and many others out of business, so he turned full time to music. For four years from 1934 Kokomo Arnold recorded over eighty tracks under his own name for Decca. Most of his records were made solo although on a few sides he was joined on piano by Peetie Wheatstraw. Arnold was a recording success and was a predominant figure among blues singers in the Decca Race catalogues of the 1930s. His first recording in 1934 included "Old Original Kokomo Blues" and "Milk Cow Blues." Robert Johnson subsequently re-released both these sides as "Sweet Home Chicago" and "Milkcow's Calf Blues" respectively. "Milk Cow Blues" was also recorded some 20 years later by Elvis Presley. Arnold got fed up with the music business and quit in 1938, becoming a factory worker in Chicago. Attempts to lure him back to performing in the early 1960's were largely a failure, and he died of a heart attack at the age of 67.

    Milk Cow Blues