James Witherspoon was born in Gurdon, Arkansas. He first attracted attention singing with Teddy Weatherford's band in Calcutta, India, which made regular radio broadcasts over the U. S. Armed Forces Radio Service during World War II. Witherspoon made his first records with Jay McShann's band in 1945. In 1949, recording under his own name with the McShann band, he had his first hit, "Ain't Nobody's Business," a song which came to be regarded as his signature tune.
In 1950 he had hits with two more songs closely identified with him: "No Rollin' Blues", "Big Fine Girl", as well as "Failing By Degrees" and "New Orleans Woman" recorded with the Gene Gilbeaux Orchestra which included Herman Washington and Don Hill on the Modern Records label. These were recorded from a live performance on May 10, 1949 at a "Just Jazz" concert Pasadena, CA sponsored by Gene Norman. Another classic Witherspoon composition is "Times Gettin' Tougher Than Tough".
Witherspoon's style of blues - that of the "blues shouter" - became unfashionable in the mid-1950s, but he returned to popularity with his 1959 album, Jimmy Witherspoon at the Monterey Jazz Festival, which featured Roy Eldridge, Woody Herman, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Earl Hines and Mel Lewis, among others. He later recorded with Gerry Mulligan, Leroy Vinnegar, Richard "Groove" Holmes and T-Bone Walker.
In 1961 he toured Europe with Buck Clayton and returned to the UK on many occasions, featuring on a mid-sixties live UK recording Spoon Sings and Swings (1966) with tenor sax player Dick Morrissey's quartet. In 1970, he appeared on Brother Jack McDuff's London Blue Note recording To Seek a New Home together with British jazz musicians, including Dick Morrissey, again, and Terry Smith.
In the 1970s he also recorded the album Guilty! (later released on CD as Black & White Blues) with Eric Burdon and featuring Ike White & the San Quentin Prison Band. He then toured with a band of his own featuring Robben Ford and Russ Ferrante. A recording from this period, Spoonful, featured 'Spoon accompanied by Robben Ford, Joe Sample, Cornell Dupree, Thad Jones and Bernard Purdie.
Other performers with whom Witherspoon recorded include Jimmy Rowles, Earl "Fatha" Hines, Vernon Alley, Mel Lewis, Teddy Edwards, Gerald Wiggins, John Clayton, Paul Humphrey, Pepper Adams, Kenny
Burrell, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Jimmy Smith, Long John Baldry, Junior Mance, Ellington bassist Jimmy Woode, Kenny Clarke, Gerry Mulligan, Jim Mullen, Count Basie, Van Morrison, Dutch Swing College Band, Gene Gilbeaux and others.
In the 1995 film Georgia, Witherspoon portrayed a traveling, gun-collecting blues singer, Trucker, who has a relationship with the troubled character Sadie, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh.
By the early '80s, Witherspoon was diagnosed with throat cancer. Although he remained active and was a popular concert attraction, the effect of the disease on his vocals was obvious. He continued performing and recording into the 1990s.
Witherspoon passed away on September 18, 1997, at the age of 77. in Los Angeles, California on September 18, 1997.
(Info mainly Wikipedia)