James CottonJames Cotton was born in Tunica, Mississippi on July 1 1935. One of his first musical influences was Sonny Boy Williamson II. After leaving home with his uncle he moved to West Helena, Arkansas, where he would meet Williamson. Williamson would mentor Cotton. When Williamson left with his estranged wife, his band was left to Cotton. Cotton had difficulty though keeping the band together, due to being a lot younger than the other members. Early in his career Cotton played drums, but he would be known for his harmonica playing.
His professional career began when he started to play blues harp for Howlin' Wolf at the start of the 1950s.
In 1953 he made his first solo artist recordings for Sun Records.
In 1954 he recorded the electric blues single "Cotton Crop Blues".
Around 1955 he started to work for Muddy Waters. Most of the recording sessions in the 1950s were done by Little Walters, Water's long time harmonica player. Cotton had his first recording session with Muddy in June 1957 and he alternated with Walter until the end of the fifties.
In 1965 he formed the Jimmy Cotton Blues Quartet, to record between Muddy Waters's gigs. He left the Muddy Water's Band the next year. Cotton went on tour with Janis Joplin, whilst he pursued his solo career. In 1967 the James Cotton Blues Band was formed, which included a horn section.
In the seventies, Cotton recorded albums for Buddah Records. He also played harmonica on Muddy Water's album "Hard Again". The album won a Grammy.
In the eighties he recorded for Alligator Records. His albums "Live form Chicago: Mr Superharp Himself!" in 1984 and "Take Me Back" in 1987, both received Grammy nominations.
In 1996 he won a Grammy for the blues album "Deep in the Blues".
Throughout the mid nineties Cotton battled throat cancer. He would continue to tour using other singers to take the vocals.
In 2006 he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.
In 2010 Cotton was a special guest on the final broadcast of Larry Monroe's Blue Monday. Cotton's album "Giant" would also receive a Grammy in the same year. The album "Cotton Mouth Man" would also receive a Grammy nomination, three years later.
In 2014 he would win a Blues Music Award for Traditional Male Blues Artist.