"WILD" JIMMY SPRUILL
Born 9 June 1934, Fayetteville, North Carolina
New York-based session guitarist. Sharing the very same birthday as Jackie Wilson, Jimmy Spruill was born into a sharecropping family in North Carolina. As a budding guitarist he was weaned on equal proportions of country music and rhythm and blues and by the time he made it to New York in 1955, he'd progressed from a cigar box and an elastic band to a Fender Telecaster and Standel amplifier. He went on to work 'A' team sessions for the likes of King Curtis, Little Anthony, the Shirelles, Tarheel Slim and Elmore James, in addition to putting out singles under his own name, most of which came out on the labels of Bobby and Danny Robinson : Fire, Fury, Everlast, Enjoy and VIM. In May 1959, "The Happy Organ" by Dave "Baby" Cortez shot to the # 1 spot on the Billboard charts, before giving way only one week later to Wilbert Harrison's "Kansas City". As it happens, the storming guitar soloist on both records was Jimmy Spruill, who for session-fees-only was notching up the notable achievement of playing on back-to-back No. 1 hits. He achieved a hat-trick of number ones when he played on Bobby Lewis's "Tossin' and Turnin'" in 1961 and just failed on another ocasion when the Shirelles' "Dedicated To The One I Love" peaked at # 3 in 1961. Another well-known recording on which Spruill plays is "Fanny Mae" by Buster Brown, a # 1 R&B hit in early 1960. Spruill was a great showman, playing guitar with his teeth. His most interesting solo record is probably "Hard Grind" (Fire 1006), which was originally issued as the B-side to "Kansas City March". Tiring of session work, Spruill formed an East Coast nightclub trio in the mid-sixties, with singer Tommy Knight and drummer Popsy Dixon. He died from a heart attack while travelling on a bus from Florida back to his home in the Bronx, New York, in 1996.
"Hard Grind" is on the CD "Great R&B Instrumentals" (Ace 819).
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