About James Cotton
“The blues is all about feeling,” says Grammy Award-winning harmonica legend James “Mr. Superharp” Cotton. “If I don’t feel it, I can’t play it.” Now in his 69th year as a professional musician (starting at age nine), James Cotton not only feels it, he lives it. His overwhelmingly powerful harmonica is one of the iconic sounds of the blues. His skills are unrivaled, his story the stuff of legend.
Born on a cotton plantation in Tunica, Mississippi on July 1, 1935, Cotton learned harmonica directly from Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller) as a small child. He toured with Williamson and Howlin’ Wolf, recorded for Sun Records, and spent 12 years with Muddy Waters before stepping out on his own. He earned his reputation as one of the most commanding live blues performers in the world. Cotton shared stages with Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, B.B. King, Santana, Steve Miller, Freddie King and many others.
Cotton’s blistering talent and full-throttle energy kept him in demand at concert halls all over the country. During the 1970s, he cut three of his own records, and rejoined Muddy Waters for a series of Muddy albums produced by Johnny Winter, starting with Hard Again in 1977. Cotton guested on recordings by Koko Taylor and many others. He was joined on his own albums by stars like Todd Rundgren, Steve Miller, Johnny Winter, Dr. John, David Sanborn, Charlie Haden, Michael Bloomfield and Cissy Houston.
In June 2010, Cotton was honored at the Lincoln Center, where his friends Hubert Sumlin, Pinetop Perkins, Taj Mahal, Shemekia Copeland and others paid tribute to him in an all-star concert. In 2013 he toured with the all-star “Blues At The Crossroads II,” a tribute to Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, and he continues to perform nationally and internationally with his own high-octane James Cotton Blues Band. Nobody has more fun playing the blues, and he continues to create inspiring, soulful music that leaves his audience on their feet, grinning and cheering for more.
His new Alligator album, Cotton Mouth Man, is a joyous celebration of his life in the blues. Recorded in Nashville and produced by Grammy-winning producer/songwriter/ drummer Tom Hambridge (Buddy Guy, Joe Louis Walker, Susan Tedeschi), it is a riveting, good-time musical journey through the sounds and scenes from Cotton’s long and storied career. With seven songs co-written by Cotton and Hambridge, the stories the album tells are Cotton’s own, inspired by his colorful and sometimes perilous life. And as always, Cotton’s blast-furnace harmonica sound and larger-than-life personality are front and center.
What Other People Have Been Saying...
“The finest blues harmonica player alive.” – Boston Herald
“Legendary master of the blues harmonica. Wowed, you will be.” – Time Out NY
“Sweat and grit …Cotton can blow down doors with Chicago style blues.” – Austin Chronicle
“Cotton can blow like hell…dazzling.” – Chicago Sun-Times