Tiny Grimes

One of the first electric guitarists to emerge after Charlie Christian, Tiny Grimes (1916-1989) had a style that mixed together the influence of Christian with his own bluesy approach.

Grimes was originally a drummer and he worked professionally as a pianist. He first picked up the electric guitar in 1938 and in 1940 joined The Cats And A Fiddle. Grimes came to the jazz world’s attention during 1943-1945 when he was part of the Art Tatum Trio, faring well while playing with the remarkable pianist. Grimes headed his first record date in September 1944, a session that featured the young Charlie Parker.

Tiny Grimes led an r&b-oriented band called the Rockin’ Highlanders during 1948-1952, featuring Red Prysock on tenor. After that popular group broke up, Grimes went into obscurity for a few years living in Cleveland and Philadelphia. He made a comeback in 1958 when he realized that mainstream swing had become popular again.

The guitarist led three record dates for Prestige and Swingville during 1958-1959. Blues Groove matches him with the great tenor Coleman Hawkins and includes “Soul Station” and the Charlie Christian–associated “A Smooth One.” Callin’ the Blues is a somewhat riotous affair with trombonist J.C. Higginbotham and tenor saxophonist Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, while Tiny in Swingville is a quintet outing with the reeds of Jerome Richardson. Pianist Ray Bryant is a major asset on all three albums.

Tiny Grimes had a low profile during much of his later career although he recorded several fine sets in the 1970s. He remained active up until his 1989 death, never altering his classic swing-to-bop guitar style.