Tiny Grimes was Master of the jazz guitar and the inventor of Rock and Roll. He performed and recorded with many other great musicians in jazz like Charlie Parker and Coleman Hawkins, and singlehandedly pioneered a new genre of swinging sound at a crucial period in music's history, a sound which ultimately would be refered to as Rock and Roll.
Born Lloyd Grimes on July 7, 1917 in Newport News, Virginia, he taught himself to play piano, and by 1935 was featured in amateur shows around the Washington DC area. Drawn to the excitement of the Harlem music scene and the opportunity to perform professionally, he moved to New York City in 1937 where he played piano in a seedy little joint called the Rhythm Club. In 1938 he gigged with a group called 'The Four Dots', and began going by 'Tiny', a nickname he acquired as a child growing up in Newport News.
It was during this time in New York City when he taught himself to play the guitar. He purchased a banged-up four-string guitar at a Harlem pawn shop for the sum of five dollars. Later asked why he decided to play four-string rather than the usual six, he replied, "'Cause I couldn't afford the other two strings!" He quickly became adept at playing the guitar, drawing inspiration from the immortal Charlie Christian and a local guitarist named 'Snags' Allen.
In 1940 he joined a popular harmony group called 'The Cats and The Fiddle', replacing Herbie Miles on the 'fiddle'. His first recording session was on January 20, 1941, sitting in on eight tunes for RCA's Bluebird label. The group went back into the studio in October of 1941.
Tiny left the 'Cats' in 1942 and headed west to the burgeoning music scene in California.
He joined up with bassist 'Slam' Stewart of 'Slim and Slam' following 'Slim' Gaillard's abrupt departure for the U.S. Army. Shortly thereafter Tiny and Slam found themselves jamming regularly with prodigal pianist Art Tatum. Soon this gifted trio was headlining in New York City to rave revues and fanatical audiences on 57th Street. This infamous jazz trio was not able to cut any wax until 1944 because of the American Federation of Musicians Recording ban of 1942-1943. When the ban was lifted they recorded under the name 'The Art Tatum Trio' for the Brunswick Label. They also recorded for a small outfit called Comet Records, whose discs today are considered collectable.
More to come...