Jimmy Nolen / April 3, 1934 - Dec 18, 1983

Here's a birthday shout to Jimmy "Chank" Nolen, the "chicken scratch" guitar player with the James Brown band, and a crucial part of his sound. He came from Oklahoma City, first playing the violin before switching to guitar, inspired by T Bone Walker. He then went to Los Angeles in the mid-'50s and cut some tunes as a leader before joining the Johnny Otis band in '57. In fact, Nolen's "chicken scratch" sound can be heard on Otis' seminal "Willie & the Hand Jive" from '58. He brought the sound to J.B. in '65, just in time to contribute to the revolutionary "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag".

Save for the infamous mutiny of '71/72 in which Brown's band protestingly left to play with Maceo Parker, Nolen played with Brown til '83, when Nolen died of a heart attack. His style contributed greatly to the creation of the JB super-heavy funk sound. Whether you know his name or not, Jimmy Nolen is one of the most important guitar players to ever grace the planet, and certainly a major contributor to what we call FUNK.

Here's an early ('56) single by Nolen as a bandleader:

And another one, recently reissued on 45 by Jazzman:

With the Johnny Otis band in '58:

Nolen lends his guitar to the revolution:

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