local fixture of the San Francisco music scene for over fifteen years,
Jimmy Sweetwater has developed a reputation as one of San Francisco’s
premier washboard and harmonica players. He has performed and recorded
with numerous Bay Area acts. Prior to moving to San Francisco, he had
already made appearances with a range of well known artists including Bo
Diddley, country rocker Johnny Paycheck and even the immortal
Fitzgerald. His playing can be heard on the CDs of dozens of Bay Area
His harmonica style is influenced by many artist's. Jimmy's approach to
playing is simple and very soulful.
Bruce Iglauer from Alligator Records say's "I like the harp no fancy but
Playing the washboard with the sensibility of a drummer, he has
developed his own versatile percussive style, able to fill the niche of
a traditional trap drummer. In fact Jimmy’s first instrument was drums.
While many people casually assume that a washboard player must play
Cajun and related styles, this is not so with Jimmy’s playing. He has
played washboard in many ensembles, ranging from old time rural country
to traditional electric blues-rock to 1940s style jazz to indie rock and
singer-songwriter fare. This versatility is in fact related to his
approach to the washboard, literally. While many washboard players use
sticks, spoons or metal thimbles, his setup sounds like a snare and he
produces his sounds using metal brushes.
Jimmy first found his niche playing at the Albion club in San
Francisco’s Mission district, managing to play there almost every other
night of the week, doing the open mike sessions and playing with other
local acts. Some of the bands Jimmy has played and recorded with over
the years in San Francisco include Chuck Prophet, Steve Yerkey, Patrick
Winningham and Bone Cootes. He has toured Europe with Pat Thomas and
the Family Jewels, featuring ex-Avenger Pat Johnson. He has also toured
Europe as a member of Jimbo Trout and the Fish People.
Recording credits include Chuck Prophet’s debut record “Brother Aldo”
which also included musicians Rolley Salley (from Chris Isaak’s band)
and Scott Mathews (Todd Rundgren) and Bone Cootes’ record, which
included the late great saxophonist Steve Douglas, veteran of Elvis
Presley’s bands and also keyboardist Austin De Lone.
He has also organized and promoted shows at The Great American Music
Hall and Slims.
He currently resides in San Francisco were he stays very busy musically.
Jimmy is celebrating the release of his new Cd "Dirt Road by the
He is also available for hire: as an add-on member for a band,
recording work, stage production and touring.
You can hear MP3s of some of his session work at his web site:
CDs are available on request.
Contact Jimmy at 415-385-6759 or e-mail to