The late Steve James was a blues musician, songwriter, storyteller, and a walking encyclopedia of interesting facts. In the world of contemporary acoustic and roots music, he earned his reputation for decades of tireless international touring, a stack of solo recordings, a funny, kinetic stage presence, and an unmistakable style of playing and singing. He was one of the best modern bottleneck slide players, as well as an excellent fingerpicking guitarist and blues-style mandolinist.
Steve James was born in NYC on 15 July 1950. His father collected records and was an amateur guitarist. Steve started teaching himself guitar at age 12. After high school, he worked for guitar maker Michael Gurian, then moved to music-rich East Tennessee in the early ’70s where he met and was influenced by traditional great Sam McGee. Steve then went to Memphis from 1975 -’77, where he hosted a radio show on WEVL FM, performed solo, and accompanied bluesmen Furry Lewis and Lum Guffin. He then moved to Texas from 1977-2015.
In Texas, Steve performed solo and led a small electric combo with saxophonist Clifford Scott and drummer Bobby Irwin at area clubs, concerts, and festivals. His solo acoustic albums began to appear regularly after 1988 and he toured all over N. and S. America, Europe, and Australia. His own recordings engage with other top-notch musicians: Cindy Cashdollar, the Bad Livers, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Del Rey, and a host of others. As a sideman, both on stage and on record, he’s played with Howard Armstrong, Bo Diddley, John Hammond, Maria Muldaur, Furry Lewis, and James McMurtry. Steve has appeared on “A Prairie Home Companion”, “Austin City Limits Live”, “NPR Morning Edition” and many other syndicated broadcasts worldwide.
Steve passed away on January 6, 2023.