The Amazing Jimmi Mayes: Sideman to the Stars

By Dahl, Bill | ARSC Journal, Fall 2014 | Go to article overview

The Amazing Jimmi Mayes: Sideman to the Stars


Dahl, Bill, ARSC Journal


The Amazing Jimmi Mayes: Sideman to the Stars. By Jimmi Mayes with V.C. Speek. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2014. 182pp (hardcover). Discography, Photos, Index. ISBN 978-1-61703-916-4

Considering how many luminaries he has known and played behind, drummer Jimmi Mayes could easily be viewed as the Forrest Gump of the music business. He didn't limit himself to specific genres, either. During the early part of his amazingly varied career, Mayes backed Chicago blues harmonica king Little Walter, suave uptown soul belter Tommy Hunt, Twist star Joey Dee, and rock guitar god Jimi Hendrix. Those are only a few of the legends that pass through the narrative of Mayes' fascinating autobiography. Leaving few holds barred, Mayes has penned a down-to-earth, succinct account of his existence, which commenced in segregated Jackson, Mississippi (where he began playing the skins while in high school and soaked up the blues all the while) before he took the long jaunt north to Chicago. Little Walter hired Mayes, still underage, as his timekeeper in 1961, the youth honing his chops behind the harmonica wizard before Hunt spirited him off to New York.

There Mayes encountered the royalty of R&B--Marvin Gaye, the Shirelles, Patti LaBelle & the Blue Belles, Chuck Jackson--and all the temptations that came along with suddenly living the highlife (drugs, women, etc.). After a short stretch with a locally popular R&B outfit, the Kansas City Playboys, Mayes joined Dee's high-energy Starliters, whose ranks then included three of the four future founders of the Young Rascals. They did plenty of touring, Dee ensuring that all of his band members were treated with respect wherever their travels took them.

Mayes spent time behind Martha & the Vandellas and offers interesting first-hand insight on Berry Gordy's Motown operation prior to hooking up with a pre-stardom Jimi Hendrix in 1965, when he helped the southpaw axeman snag a gig as a Starliter. …

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