JIM WYNN (By Dave Penny)

Born James A. Wynn, Jr., 21 June 1908, El Paso, Texas

Died 19 July 1977, Los Angeles, California

"I was the first sax man in L.A. to lay on his back and play the horn. Jay McNeely was a little kid when he used to come in and watch me play at weekends. Two or three years later he was laying on his back and playing. He's a great musician but he got the clowning from me. "

Big Jim Wynn (Blues Unlimited, 1975).

"By that time [1950] T-Bone had become so big and I joined his unit. Back in those days, as today, bands consisted of studio and travelling groups. Many times the band one saw in person was not the same one he heard on record. At the time I had the distinction of being in both units! "

Big Jim Wynn (interviewed by George Moonoogian, 1975)

Born out in the West Texas town of El Paso on 21st June 1908, James A Wynn Jr was the son of Armeal Rebenton and James Master Wynn. Taken as an infant to live in Los Angeles, he began his first steps in music playing piano and clarinet, switching to tenor sax in his early teens. By the mid 1930s, Wynn had formed his own band and was playing tenor sax at a Watts club called Little Harlem where he first met a dancer by the name of T-Bone Walker. As vocalist and guitarist, Walker began sitting in with the Wynn band; the beginning of an association that was to last for over 17 years. Already an industry veteran of over a decade, Big Jim Wynn, with his band The Bobalibans (named after the big 1945 novelty hit "Be-Baba-Leba/Ee-Bobaliba" etc.), made their first recordings in late 1945 for Bill McCall's 4Star and Gilt Edge Records, leaving to join the Bihari's Modern label the following year. The Wynn band recorded sporadically thereafter for Specialty (1947), Supreme and Modern again (1948 - the sides released on Foto at this time were reissues of his first two 4Star releases), Peacock (1949), Mercury and Recorded In Hollywood (1951) and Million (1954), recording a final single in 1959 for short-lived Hollywood indie, Great Records, which itself was re-released a year or two later on the similarly tiny Pico label. By the late 1940s, Wynn's innovative performance style, involving dancing, stomping and other on-stage histrionics, was being widely copied by the next generation of L.A. tenor wild men and in an effort to maintain variety in his act he began playing the more cumbersome baritone saxophone. Wynn disbanded his regular combo in the mid 1950s, becoming an indispensable session saxophonist on many of the blues, r&b, pop and soul recordings commissioned by the myriad California independent labels through the late 1950s and 1960s. During the same period, Big Jim Wynn was also an integral part of Johnny Otis' big r&b revue band, a post he would maintain until the mid 1970s. Sadly, despite a healthy diet and exercise regime, Big Jim died at the comparatively early age of 69 in the White Memorial Hospital in Los Angeles on 19th July 1977.

The first volume of Jim Wynn's recordings (cf: Classics 5043*) reissued his mid 1940s work for 4 Star, Gilt Edge and Modern. This compilation mops up the remaining thirteen years, during which he recorded one-off deals for Specialty, Modern (again), Supreme, Mercury, Recorded In Hollywood, Million, and a final 45 around 1959 for the Hollywood-based Great Records which was reissued a year or two later on the Pico label. The small Pico catalogue also issued a 45 by Wynn's loyal drummer/vocalist, Snake Sims, which probably also features the Wynn band.

Dave Penny - June 2003 (Liner notes for Classics CD 5070, "The Chronological Jim Wynn, 1947-1959".. Released 2003, 18 tracks.)

With grateful acknowledgement to the pioneering research of Eric Leblanc, Bill Millar and George Moonoogian.

* This CD spotlights the first year of Jim Wynn's recording career and the astonishingly tough jump sides recorded for 4Star and Gilt Edge in 1945; pianist Luther "Lord" Luper jr handled the jazzy ballads, while the band also featured a dedicated blues shouter in Pee Wee Wiley ("Rock Woogie", "Shipyard Woman", etc.) and a true future giant of r&b in Claude Trenier, who brought Buzz, Buzz, Buzz with him from the Jimmie Lunceford band (see Classics 862), and who performed the definitive version of "Ee-Bobaliba" - a song written and featured by Wynn months before Helen Humes (Classics 892) beat him to the draw for the first recorded version. As a bonus his first Modern session is also included, featuring the great singing of bass player Teddy Shirley; another well-employed session musician who also recorded with Big Jay McNeely in the same capacity (Classics 5009).

(From the liner notes for Classics CD 5043, "The Chronological Jim Wynn, 1945-46". Reproduced with permission.)

These pages were originally published as "This Is My Story" in the
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