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James "Yank" Rachell (March 16, 1903 or 1910 – April 9, 1997) was an American country blues musician who has been called an "elder statesman of the blues." His career as a performer spanned nearly seventy years, from the late 1920s to the 1990s.
James "Yank" Rachell
Rachell performing in Hamburg, Germany, February 1978
|Birth name||James A. Rachel|
|Born||March 16, 1910|
Near Brownsville, Tennessee, United States
|Died||April 9, 1997 (aged 94)|
Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
|Genres||Country blues, blues|
|Associated acts||Sleepy John Estes|
Rachell grew up in Brownsville, Tennessee. There is uncertainty over his birth year; although his gravestone shows 1910, researchers Bob Eagle and Eric LeBlanc conclude, on the basis of a 1920 census entry, that he was probably born in 1903.
In 1958, during the American folk music revival, he moved to Indianapolis. He recorded for Delmark Records and Blue Goose Records. He was a capable guitarist and singer but was better known as a master of the blues mandolin. He bought his first mandolin at age 8, in a trade for a pig his family had given him to raise. He often performed with the guitarist and singer Sleepy John Estes. "She Caught the Katy," which he wrote with Taj Mahal, is considered a blues standard.
By the mid-1990s, Rachell and Henry Townsend were the only blues musicians still active whose careers started in the 1920s. Late in his life Rachell suffered from arthritis, which shortened his playing sessions, but he recorded an album just before his death, Too Hot for the Devil.
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