Jimmy Pryor is the King of Des Moines Blues. Born in West Virginia in 1916, he started his Blues career at the early age of 12, playing cat houses and rent parties.
Jimmy entered World War II at the age of 27, and drove a truck for the legendary Red Ball Express. He helped supply General George Patton in his famous run through Europe.
Jimmy returned to West Virginia and eventually moved to Detroit in the 1950s. It was there, during the Blues boom of the ‘50s, Jimmy met and played with some of the greatest Bluesmen of the time. He opened for, jammed with, or played with B.B. King, Cab Calloway, Count Basie, John Lee Hooker, etc… He also traveled a lot, playing in the band the 4 Aces. As Jimmy has said, “I was pretty well known. I used to sneak up on stage and start jamming with the fellas.” In Chicago, Jimmy met and sang with the immortal Sam Cooke in Cooke’s Gospel Group.
In 1960, Jimmy was working for a booking agent in Detroit. As Jimmy puts it, “They needed some Blues in Des Moines, and my boss said, ‘Jimmy you gonna like Des Moines. You’ll probably never come back!’”
Sure enough, Jimmy came to Des Moines and never returned to Detroit. Jimmy remembers, “Back then, Des Moines was a town that didn’t sleep. When you played in Detroit, or some of the other big cities, they would close the bars at 2 o’clock, but in Des Moines you could play all night long.”
By the 1970s, the Blues was dying all over the country and Jimmy needed to find work. That’s when he got involved in Country music and played the supper clubs north of Des Moines. It was there that Jimmy got his famous nickname “The Midnight Cowboy”. Jimmy was so loved by the Country music people, that he was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame.
These days, you can catch Jimmy playing the Blues all over the place. He is currently the showman of Fat Tuesday & The Greasefire Horns. The band took first place in the 2000 Iowa Blues Challenge. They will be traveling to Memphis this coming February to compete in the International Blues Challenge.
PHOTO © JEN TAYLOR – VIVIDPIX.COM