Street Jimmy Davis (March 2, 1925 – December 28, 1995) was an
American electric blues singer, guitarist and songwriter. He played with
John Lee Hooker, recorded an album for
Elektra Records in the mid 1960s, and remained a regular street musician on
Maxwell Street, Chicago, for over 40 years.
He was also known as Jewtown Jimmy, and is best remembered for his songs
'Cold Hands' and '4th And Broad'.
He was born Charles W. Thompson, in Tippo, Mississippi. In his teens, Davis
learned to play guitar from John Lee Hooker, and the two of them played
concerts together in Detroit in the 1940s, following Davis' relocation there
in 1946. Prior to his move to Detroit, Davis had worked in traveling
minstrel shows. This included a spell with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels. Davis
later spent nearly a year living in Cincinatti, Ohio, before he moved to
Chicago in 1953. He started performing regularly in the marketplace area of
Maxwell Street, playing a traditional and electrified style of Mississippi
In 1952, he recorded two songs under his real name for Sun Records. They
were 'Cold Hands' and '4th and Broad', and despite being offered to both
Chess and Bullet, they were not released. The exact timing of Davis'
adoption of his new name is uncertain, but in 1964, under his new pseudonym,
he waxed a couple of tracks for Testament. They appeared on the 1965
Testament compilation album, Modern Chicago Blues. His songs were 'Crying
Won't Make Me Stay' and 'Hanging Around My Door'. The album also included a
track from another Chicago street performer, John Lee Granderson, as well as
more established artists such as
Robert Nighthawk, Big Walter Horton,
and Johnny 'Man' Young. Music journalist,
Tony Russell, wrote it was 'music of great charm and honesty'.
In 1966, Davis recorded a self-titled album for Elektra Records, which
Allmusic's Jason Ankeny called 'a fine showcase for his powerful guitar
skills and provocative vocals'. Davis recorded several tracks for various
labels over the years without commercial success.
He owned a small restaurant on Maxwell Street called the Knotty Pine Grill,
and performed outside the premises during the summer months. Davis continued
to play alfresco in Chicago's West Side for decades, up to his latter years.
In July 1994, Wolf Records released the album, Chicago Blues Session, Vol.
11, the tracks of which Davis had recorded in 1988 and 1989. The collection
included Lester Davenport on harmonica, and Kansas City Red playing the
Davis died of a heart attack in December 1995, in his adopted hometown of
Chicago. He was 70 years old.
A 1989 photograph of Davis performing on Maxwell Street, appeared on the
front cover of BluesSpeak: The Best of the Original Chicago Blues Annual,
published in 2010.
He is not to be confused with the West Coast R&B saxophonist and record
producer, Maxwell Davis (1916–1970).