Top row from left: Lee Hildebrand, Bobby Webb, Fillmore Slim, California Red, the Bay Area Blues Musicians playing a special musical tribute. Second Row: Ronnie Steward, Theodore R. Wysinger, Jimmy McCracklin. Third row: Maureen Smith, Jesse James, Sue McCracklin, Bernadine Evans, Jesse James, Sugar Pie DeSanto, John Turk. Bottom row: Bobby Web, California Red, Paul Sutherland, Miz Dee Logwood, Valerie Housley, Stephanie Palmer, Pastor Joseph Flowers, Maureen Smith. (Photos, except the one of Jimmy McCracklin, taken by Godfrey Lee).
By Godfrey Lee
The life of the late Jimmy McCracklin, one of the greatest blues artists of all time, was celebrated on Thursday, Jan. 3 at the Hilltop Community Church in Richmond. Pastor Joseph K. Flowers of Peace Baptist Church of Vallejo presided over the service.
McCracklin died Dec. 20 at Creekside Health Center in San Pablo. The prolific singer, pianist and songwriter, a longtime Richmond resident, was 91.
McCracklin is remembered as having a great sense of humor. Stories were told of how he provided for his family and assured that they would have a nice home and never know a hungry day. McCracklin was an excellent Southern style cook and a chef in the Navy who baked a very good peach cobbler.
In the 1960s, he traveled across the country with his family in a decorated station wagon. Wherever they pulled up, the car would attract a lot of attention.
Longtime McCracklin friend Joseph Patrick Conwright wrote an email, which was shared during the service. In his message, he said the two met in 1945, and Conwright helped arranged some songs with him.
The songs were arranged in two days and then recorded. One of the first was, “Looking for a Woman.” Then “Blues for the People” was written.
The two songs became best sellers, with 40,000 copies of “Blues for the People” selling in less than 6 months.
“Jim, my friend, you did it all. I don’t believe there’s any other artist in my lifetime that wrote as many songs as you have. You made history; your name will go down in history. The Mighty Con will never forget you,” wrote Conwright.
Performer Jesse James remembers McCracklin as a passionate songwriter. He often did not get credit or money for many of the songs that he wrote. He found out that many performers would forget all about you, take all the credit, and put their names on your songs, said James.
McCracklin was a great friend to James, he said, and helped him get started in the music business.