Jimmy Shirley (born James Arthur Shirley, May 31, 1913, Union, SC - December 03, 1989, New York, NY) was primarily a talented swing guitarist; Shirley also played traditional New Orleans jazz through early bop. He was one of the early electric guitar players and was one of the first to use the vibrola attached to his guitar for a unique sound.
Jimmy Shirley never achieved much fame (except among fellow musicians) despite his long career and obvious talents. He grew up in Cleveland, Ohio where he was taught guitar by his father.
Shirley worked in Cincinnati with J. Frank Terry and Hal Draper (1934-36) and had his own group before moving to New York. Shirley was a part of the Clarence Profit Trio (1937-41), with whom he made his recording debut. In 1941 he recorded with Artie Shaw’s Orchestra.
After a period with Ella Fitzgerald (1942-43), Shirley played on and off with Herman Chittison (1944-54) and led his own bands in addition to working with Phil Moore and lesser-known names. In the mid 1940s Shirley played and recorded with Coleman Hawkins, Edmond Hall, Art Hodes, James P. Johnson, Billy Kyle and many others. He played in most of the idioms of his time from New Orleans jazz to early bebop.
Jimmy recorded three times as leader. At Blue Note in the 1940s he recorded six or seven tracks of which only Jimmy's Blues made it to release as Blue Note 530 on 78 RPM
In the late 1940s into the 1950s Jimmy Shirley recorded more blues than jazz, recording with singers like Wynonie Harris, Jimmy Rushing, Screamin Jay Hawkins and Little Willie John. He also accompanied several female singers during this period, most notably Rose Murphy and Barbara Lea. He began doubling on electric bass with Buddy Tate (1967).
During 1975 whilst in Europe Jimmy recorded the album China Boy on Black & Blue 33081. (Info mainly Classic Jazz Guitar & All Music Guide)