In 1959 through to 1962 Earnest took over the drum chair behind his father’s regular gigs every Friday and Saturday night in Jackson and Sunday nights in Canton. After his father died in 1963 he went on the road with two of his father’s friends; the great singer/drummer Willie Nix and the wonderful Johnny Temple. This was a pretty heavy duty trio!
In 1965 Earnest took the train to Chicago holding a recommendation from Johnny Temple to Willie Dixon of Chess Records. He was given an audition after which Willie promised to record him. Unfortunately Earnest began ‘drinking, running behind women and buying Cadillac’s’ and ‘Dixon kinda fell out with me about that’. Meanwhile, he had met and befriended B B Odom and the two of them managed to do a regular set at Playce Lounge where they would sit in with Jimmy and Syl Johnson. On weekends they would hustle jobs at various clubs around the city singing soul blues songs like Little Johnny Taylors ‘Part Time Love’.
The two of them eventually managed to acquire a regular Friday, Saturday and Sunday slot at the club for Earnest which lasted about 12 years. Apart from playing his own regular slot he was also required to play in the house-band that included in an ever-changing line-up; Earl Hooker, Dave Myers, Louis Myers and Freddie Belows. This crack band backed the cream of Chicago’s blues-men including Muddy, Buddy Guy, Jnr Wells, J.B Lenoir and anyone else who might get up from the audience to play. When Louis and Dave Myers had gigs out of town they would often take Earnest with them – such was his standing.
In 1974 Elmore James Jnr as he was now known was signed up by Ace Record’s Johnny Vincent for a three year recording contract. Over this period Elmore Jnr recorded over 25 songs in the Ace/Jackson studios. Unfortunately only one very fine single was released on Ace ‘Ida Mae/Prisoner of the Blues’. A third track ‘Cummins Prison Blues’ appeared on the excellent CD album issued on Shorty Billups’ Solid Gold Label.
Meanwhile back in 1977 we find Johnny Vincent pleading poverty (which was quite possibly true) and reneging on the $3000 payment. After this Elmore Jnr walked away in disgust, stopped playing and went back to his day job in the Steel Mills until his retirement in 1996. After that he ‘got back into playing’ and quietly built up his reputation, first in Chicago clubs like the ‘Bonanza’ and ‘Linda’s’ and later at the Maxwell St. Open Market.
In 2003 Elmore Jnr recorded at the FL Club in Boston, Mass; which was followed by a further recording session in Elmhurst, Illinois the following year. Tracks from these sessions make up the remainder of the lovely Solid Gold CD. In 2007 he hooked up with Cadillac Zack who recorded him for JSP Records which has received a rave review in Blues & Rhythm # 228 by Norman Darwin.
This was his first trip to the UK and yet another coup for Shakedown Blues. The superb Big Joe Louis Blues Band made sure that this was a night to remember.