They were called the Head Cutters. Cuz the minute they started playing, they stole the audience from anyone else. There were three of ‘em. Muddy Waters. Little Walter. And Jimmy Rogers. For some reason, Jimmy never reached the stratosphere of fame that Muddy and Walter did. And it’s a damn shame. Cause this man can really play.
Jimmy was right there when Muddy plugged in for the first time, when Memphis Slim took over for Sunnyland. Jimmy helped write “Hoochie Coochie Man,” played on Little Walter’s “Juke,” basically helped come up with some of the greatest blues songs ever written. You don’t wanna hear all this from me though. Let’s go straight to the horse’s mouth. Here, Mr. Rogers remembers working with producer, songwriter, legend Willie Dixon.Willie Dixon he was arranging, writing songs. It was very funny but I was letting Muddy be the top dog because he was olderand had more experience in playing than we did back during that time. We’re just backgrounding him. We put him out front as a leader. Dixon, we would listen and rehearse and do rounds until we come up with the “Hoochie Coochie Man.” “Hoochie Coochie Man” maybe is like a medicine man or something. I don’t know, just a person. Dixon said that and we kept around until he found words to match it. We called it “Hoochie Coochie.” It was a Hoochie Coochie band. Hoochie Coochie boys, that’s what we was. Muddy Waters and the Hoochie Coochie boys. I don’t know if it was really going to turn out to be as big as it did but I guess that’s what ideas come in happening and work. I’m glad that it did.
Jimmy Rogers was born James A. Lane on June 3, 1924 in Ruleville, Mississippi. He made his name as a singer, harmonica player, and chiefly, a guitarist–a seminal contributor to the Chicago blues sound. He’s best known for his guitar-work as a member of the Muddy Waters band through the 1950s.
Rogers learned to play harmonica as a child alongside his pal Snooky Pryor. As a teenager he switched to guitar and moved to East St. Louis where he accompanied Robert Lockwood Jr. among others. Lockwood inspired him to get on up and move again–this time to Chicago, where he landed in 1946. In ’47 he began to play with Muddy Waters and Little Walter–forming a band known as the Headcutters, for their habit of stealing gigs from other local groups. It’s this first Muddy Waters Band that’s credited with defining a new style of blues music–what would come to be known as the Chicago Blues sound.
Rogers stayed with Muddy until ’54, and recorded solo throughout the 50′s, generating a number of hit singles on his own. But as the fifties came to a close, Rogers found interest in his music to be waning, so he largely checked out of the industry. Despite a couple of gigs with Howlin’ Wolf in the 60′s, Rogers gave up professional musicianship and made his money as a taxi driver and clothing store owner. But when his store burned down in the Chicago riots following Dr. Martin Luther King’s death in 1968, Rogers turned back to music. By the 70′s he began recording and touring again, even joining Muddy for a brief reunion in Europe.
Jimmy Rogers died in 1997. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1995.