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Kokomo Arnold (February 15, 1901 – November 8, 1968) was an American blues musician.

Born James Arnold in Lovejoy's Station, Georgia, Arnold received his nickname in 1934 after releasing "Old Original Kokomo Blues" for the Decca label; it was a cover of the Scrapper Blackwell blues song about the Kokomo brand of coffee.[1] A left-handed slide guitarist, his intense slide style of playing and rapid-fire vocal style set him apart from his contemporaries.



Having learned the basics of the guitar from his cousin, John Wiggs,[2] Arnold began playing in the early 1920s as a sideline while he worked as a farmhand in Buffalo, New York, and as a steelworker in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1929 he moved to Chicago and set up a bootlegging business, an activity he continued throughout Prohibition. In 1930 Arnold moved south briefly, and made his first recordings, "Rainy Night Blues" and "Paddlin' Madeline Blues", under the name Gitfiddle Jim for the Victor label in Memphis, Tennessee.[3] He soon moved back to the bootlegging center of Chicago, though he was forced to make a living as a musician after the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution ending Prohibition in 1933. Kansas Joe McCoy heard him and introduced him to Mayo Williams who was producing records for Decca.[2]

From his first recording for Decca on September 10, 1934 until his last on May 12, 1938, Arnold made eighty-eight sides, seven of which remain lost. Along with Peetie Wheatstraw and Bumble Bee Slim, he was a dominant figure in Chicago blues circles. His major influence upon modern music is, along with Peetie Wheatstraw, upon the seminal delta blues artist Robert Johnson, a musical contemporary. Johnson turned "Old Original Kokomo Blues" into "Sweet Home Chicago", while another Arnold song, "Sagefield Woman Blues", introduced the terminology "dust my broom", which Johnson used as a song title himself.

Arnold's "Milk Cow Blues" was covered by Elvis Presley (as "Milk Cow Blues Boogie") at the Sun Studios produced by Sam Phillips and was issued as one of his early singles. Aerosmith also covered "Milk Cow Blues" on their 1977 album, Draw the Line. Another version by George Strait was on his 1991 album Chill of an Early Fall.

In 1938 Arnold left the music industry and began to work in a Chicago factory.[3] Rediscovered by blues researchers in 1962, he showed no enthusiasm for returning to music to take advantage of the new explosion of interest in the blues among young white audiences.[3]

He died of a heart attack in Chicago at the age of sixty-seven in 1968, and was buried in the Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois.[4]

See also


  1. ^ Entry at the African American Registry, retrieved November 15, 2007.
  2. ^ a b Briggs, Keith, Kokomo Arnold, Complete Recorded Works Vol.1 (17 May 1930 to 15 March 1935, Document Records, 1991.
  3. ^ a b c Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues - From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. pp. 89. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.  
  4. ^ Find a Grave website, retrieved November 15, 2007

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