Thursday, 23 August 2018

Little Jimmy Dempsey born 23 August 1937

James Clifford Dempsey (23 August1937 - 29 November 1997) was an American singer, songwriter and top session guitarist. Jimmy Dempsey was born in Atlanta Georgia with a rare brittle bone condition. Throughout his life this condition resulted in 74 broken legs, 10 broken arms and a broken back. As a result, Jimmy walked on crutches his entire life. For most people that’s where the story would have ended. But for Jimmy, it was just the beginning.

At the age of 2 1/2 Jimmy began his career in the music business as a child singer and radio personality with an appearance on the Major Bowes National Network Radio Show in New York City. After that appearance he was invited to sing at the famous Stage Door Canteen in Hollywood California with Eddie Cantor, Phil Harris, Alice Faye and Betty Grable. Upon returning to Atlanta at age 5 he began appearing at many live events and singing on 5 radio shows a day. Between the ages of 8 and 11, he traveled on the weekends throughout the south and in his home town of Atlanta, performing on stage shows between the movie serial matinees with most of the major cowboy movie stars of that era such as Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Tex Ritter and The Son's of the Pioneers just to mention a few. He also did appearances with Bob Hope, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Bela Lagosi, Lon Chaney Jr. and the Three Stooges.

Throughout his teens he continued performing at local events and became a very popular figure in the Atlanta area. He was a favourite fixture for some time on the Atlanta TV Show - Ed Caparal’s Bandstand Matinee where he amazed everyone with his dancing prowess even while on crutches. At age 17 he began his recording career and by the age of 18, Jimmy bought his first guitar. Within a week had taught himself well enough to play his first show as a backup guitarist for the Lanny Frye Combo and then the Cherokee Boys a popular local Atlanta band. Shortly after that, Jimmy put his own band together and started doing local shows and dances in Atlanta and throughout the south.

During the 50’s and 60’s Jimmy had a total of 12 released and 5 unreleased vocal records. In the late 50’s, Jimmy started doing local studio work that led to him recording and working for Bill Lowery, one of music’s biggest producers and executives. While with Lowery, Jimmy did a lot of work with two fledgling artists at that time named Jerry Reed and Ray Stevens.

Some of the other artists that Jimmy worked with through Lowery were Joe South, Billy Jo Royal and The Vogues and on and on. By this time, Jimmy was in high demand as a studio player in Atlanta, even lending his skills on the guitar to rock and soul superstar Little Richard. He also appeared at numerous events around town and throughout the south with a multitude of stars such as Brenda Lee, Connie Stevens, Faron Young, Ray Price, Carl Perkins and so many more.


He became the lead guitarist for the Longhorn Ranch Boys, a popular Atlanta bar band, during the 1950s, and in 1958 began leading the Cherokee Country Boys, with whom he made his recording debut. In 1962, Dempsey left the group to found his own trio. Among his best-known singles were "Bop Hop" and "Rhode 
Island Red," as well as humorous originals such as "Bessie Was a Good Old Cow" and "Betcha Can't Eat Just One." From the late '50s through the early '60s, Dempsey was part of the Ernest Tubb Radio Program; he also appeared on a German show, American Music.

Throughout the 60’s Jimmy also became very popular on the Atlanta nightclub scene, sometimes playing several different clubs in the same night. He might go from working a show with Aretha Franklin at one club to headlining at a jazz club across town with the “Little” Jimmy Dempsey Trio.   

In the 70’s Jimmy found himself in high demand for session work in Nashville. Travelling back and forth from Atlanta to Nashville on a weekly basis became increasingly inconvenient therefore Jimmy made the difficult decision to move his family from his hometown of Atlanta to Nashville. As th 70's drew to a close,

Jimmy, who had worked in the business since age 5, was contemplating retirement. To the shock of all who knew him, in 1980, at the ripe old age of 43, Jimmy simply unplugged his guitar and said his good-byes to Nashville and the recording business. Jimmy and his wife Tena fulfilled their dream of retiring to a big farm. He devoted a number of years to owning and training harness racing horses. 

In September 1997, Jimmy received the “Atlanta Society of Entertainers Musician of the Year Award”. Jimmy received yet another honour by being named as an inductee into the Inaugural Class of the “North American Country Music Hall of Fame”.

Jimmy died from a heart attack at his home 29 November 1997

(Edited mainly from


boppinbob said...

I only have one track of Little Jimmy Dempsey and it's included in this Ace CD compilation.
Any more of Jimmy's would be appreciated.

So for “The Rockin’ South – NRC” go here:

01 The Cat - Rod Willis
02 The Rock-A-Round - Paul Peek
03 Baby Please Don't Leave - Sweetie Jones
04 The Coo - Wayne Cochran
05 The Little Moon Men - Lee George
06 Splashin' - The Shades
07 The Purple People Eater Meets The Witch Doctor - Joe South
08 Just Me And My Baby - Chuck Atha
09 Strollin' After Dark - The Shades
10 Robbin' The Cradle - Tony Bellus
11 Bop Hop - Little Jimmy Dempsey
12 Chills - Joe South
13 You Shouldn't Oughta Done It - The Night Owls
14 I Got A Girl - Tommy Roe & the Satins
15 Hey Little Nell - The Four Mints
16 Congratulations To Me - Darrell Glenn
17 Scratching On My Screen - Ric Cartey
18 I Love You So Much - Chuck Wiley
19 That's All Right - Ray Smith
20 Sheila - Tommy Roe & the Satins with the Flamingoes
21 Sweet Skinny Jenny - Paul Peek
22 Wolf - The Four Mints
23 My Baby Is Gone - Cleve Warnock
24 Will Travel - Rod Willis
25 I'm Snowed - Joe South
26 Pinch Me Quick - Jimmy Smith & the Ranch Hands
27 Black Knee Socks - Clyde Beavers
28 I'm Gonna Leave You - Walt Benton & the Diplomats
29 Baby That's Alright - Robert Gill & the Dreamers
30 I'm Happy - Robert Gill & the Gill-O-Teens

Rock’n’roll music built its history on the contribution of independent labels. Every major artist in the 1950s started with an independent. While some like Sun, Roulette and King became very well-known, there were many others whose contribution, though just as vital, have rarely been documented. These were the launching pads for artists who found fame elsewhere. Bill Lowery’s NRC was one such label.

Here’s some hot and rare rock’n’roll and rockabilly from the NRC group of labels (including Wonder, Judd, Fox and Sccottie) which launched the Atlanta, Georgia recording scene in the 1950’s.

(A big thank you to Jake @ Jukebox City for original post)

Mike Anderson said...

Thanks Bob for the ongoing guitar festival - great stuff!

Jake said...

Maybe this helps :

boppinbob said...

Thanks Jake, It seems three of the four tracks are by another Jimmy Dempsey (no relation to Little Jimmy). This one was born in Sebree, Kentucky and recorded for the local Janey & Link labels. cica 1960-61. This is all I can find on the net.
Regards, Bob