A few days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941, he enlists in the US Marines.
While stationed in Calcutta in 1942, he is spotted by pianist Teddy Weatherford, who encourages Jimmy to concentrate on singing.
After his army service, he returns to California in 1944, where he meets some of the great name of the 1940's swing:T-Bone Walker, Joe Turner and Jay McShann. Jimmy joins McShann's band in Vallejo.
'Ain't Nobody's Business' is a Number 1 rhythem and blues hit in 1949.
Having finished his contract with the Modern record label in 1952, Jimmy joins the federal label, but enjoys little success, the following year drink and financial problems begin to plague him.
In 1957 along with McShann, he signs with the RCA record label.
His career slowed with the advent of rock'n'rock, then a fine performance at the 1959 Monterey Jazz Festival helps Jimmy begin a successful comeback, over the next decade he records with Earl Hines and other jazz greats.
He makes the first of many European tours in 1961, this time with the Buck Clayton All Starsand regularly visited prisons to perform for inmates.
With T-Bone Walker, Jimmy records one of his finest album, Evenin' Blues in 1963.
He records The Blues Is Now, in 1968 with jazz organist Brother Jack McDuff.
Boosted by a new contract with the ABC-Blueway label in 1969, Jimmy records the superb album Hunh! with Charles Brown, Red Holloway and Earl Hooker.
Having moved closer to rock, Jimmy tours with former Animal singer Eric Burdon in 1971.
With the help of British producer Mike Vernon, Jimmy has a new hit in 1974, with 'Love Is a Five Letter Word.
He toured with guitarist Robben Ford and appeared at blues and jazz festivals until he had to undergo surgery for throat cancer in the mid 1980's.
His album Midnight Lady Called the Blues released in 1986, captures the essence of a man who has continued touring and recording throughout the 1980's, despite having reached a respectable age.
Jimmy rejoined Ford in the early 1990's. their Live at the Mint album was nominated for the 1995 Grammy Award for the best traditional blues album.
Reunited with Mike Vernon in 1992, Jimmy records the excellent album The Blues, the Whole Blues and Nothing But the Blues.
Jimmy Witherspoon, whose trademark was his deep, smoky voice, dies in Los Angeles, 22 September 1997, of natural causes.
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