Jimmy Ellis was born in 1935, in the rural farming community of Foreman, Arkansas. Like most youths, his first singing experience came in church, where he and his brother both sang. Regrettably Jimmy was to experience the blues first hand at the age of 12 with the break up of his family. The next 2 years were spent on his grandfather's farm across the Red River in DeKalb, Texas.
By 1950 Jimmy had moved to Seattle, Washington to be reunited with his mother. Under the guidance of his grandmother he began singing in the choir at the nearby Mount Baker Baptist Church. Eventually his vocal talents came to the attention of the Reverend F.F. Billups who managed two well known gospel groups, The Kansas City Gospel Singers and The Traveling Four. Billups, on his next visit to Seattle, asked Jimmy to join The Traveling Four since their baritone singer had just quit. Rev. Billups ended up being his guardian and he went on the road with the group.
By 1955 The Traveling Four split up, and Jimmy, now 20 years old, entered the military service. By the late 1950s, he was back in Seattle, and began to seriously pursue his interest in playing the guitar. He was basically self taught, although he did get some pointers from an uncle who was a jazz guitarist. In spite of his developing instrumental skills Jimmy wasn't quite ready for a solo career yet. Instead he recruited former ex-Traveling Four members Tony Harris and Billy Marshall to form a doo-wop group called The Centuries.
The Centuries soon recorded a single in Los Angeles on producer Dootsie Williams' Dootone label in 1962. The group toured up and down the coast playing different venues, and split for good shortly after that.
Finally in 1964 Jimmy became a solo blues act and a legend was born. Here a Bluesman who spent the last 30 years partially entertaining smoke filled bars on the Chittlin circuit with mixed audiences due to his blues style.
Be prepared to dance as the Blues comes alive on Red Hot & Blues, the debut album of Jimmy "Preacher" Ellis.