Jay McShann

James Columbus "Jay" McShann (January 12, 1916 – December 7, 2006) was a jazz pianist and bandleader. He led bands in Kansas City, Missouri, that included Charlie Parker, Bernard Anderson, Ben Webster, and Walter Brown.

Jay McShann
McShann in a 1944 advertisement
Background information
Birth nameJames Columbus McShann
Born(1916-01-12)January 12, 1916
Muskogee, Oklahoma, U.S.
DiedDecember 7, 2006(2006-12-07) (aged 90)
Kansas City, Missouri
GenresBlues, swing, jazz, jump blues
Occupation(s)Musician, bandleader, composer
InstrumentsVocals, piano
Years active1931–2006
Associated actsCharlie Parker, Bernard Anderson, Ben Webster, Walter Brown, Jimmy Witherspoon, Claude Williams

Early life and education

McShann was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and was nicknamed Hootie.[1] Musically, his education came from Earl Hines's late-night broadcasts from Chicago's Grand Terrace Cafe: "When 'Fatha' (Hines) went off the air, I went to bed".[2] He began working as a professional musician in 1931, performing around Tulsa, Oklahoma, and neighboring Arkansas.



McShann moved to Kansas City, Missouri, in 1936, and set up his own big band, which variously featured Charlie Parker (1937–42), Al Hibbler, Ben Webster, Paul Quinichette, Bernard Anderson, Gene Ramey, Jimmy Coe, Gus Johnson (1938–43),[3] Harold "Doc" West, Earl Coleman,[4] Walter Brown, and Jimmy Witherspoon, among others. His first recordings were all with Charlie Parker, the first as the Jay McShann Orchestra on August 9, 1940.

The band played both swing and blues numbers but played blues on most of its records; its most popular recording was "Confessin' the Blues". The group disbanded when McShann was drafted into the Army in 1944. The big-band era being over, he was unable to successfully restart his career after the war ended.

Jay told the Associated Press in 2003 "You'd hear some cat play, and somebody would say 'This cat, he sounds like he's from Kansas City.' It was Kansas City Style. They knew it on the East Coast. They knew it on the West Coast. They knew it up north, and they knew it down south."[5]


After World War II McShann began to lead small groups featuring the blues shouter Jimmy Witherspoon. Witherspoon started recording with McShann in 1945 and fronting McShann's band; he had a hit in 1949 with "Ain't Nobody's Business". As well as writing much material, Witherspoon continued recording with McShann's band, which also featured Ben Webster. McShann had a modern rhythm and blues hit with "Hands Off", featuring a vocal by Priscilla Bowman, in 1955.

In the late 1960s, McShann became popular as a singer as well as a pianist, often performing with violinist Claude Williams. He continued recording and touring through the 1990s. Well into his 80s, McShann still performed occasionally, particularly in the Kansas City area and Toronto, Ontario, where he made his last recording, "Hootie Blues", in February 2001, after a recording career of 61 years. In 1979, he appeared prominently in The Last of the Blue Devils, a documentary film about Kansas City jazz.

McShann died on December 7, 2006, in Kansas City, Missouri, at the age of 90.[6] He was survived by his companion of more than 30 years, Thelma Adams (known as Marianne McShann), and three daughters: Linda, Jayne, and Pam.

The Rolling Stones recorded a cover version of "Confessin' the Blues" on their album Five by Five (1964). The song was written by McShann and Walter Brown in the 1940s. The crime-fiction writer Elmore Leonard featured McShann as a character in his 2005 novel The Hot Kid.

Awards and honors


As leader

  • Goin' to Kansas City Blues (RCA Victor, 1957)
  • McShann's Piano (Capitol, 1967)
  • Confessin' the Blues (Black and Blue, 1970)
  • Going to Kansas City (Master Jazz, 1972)
  • Jumpin' the Blues with Milt Buckner (Black and Blue, 1972)
  • Kansas City Memories (Black and Blue, 1973)
  • The Band That Jumps the Blues! (Black Lion, 1973)
  • Early Bird with Charlie Parker (Spotlite, 1973)
  • Vine Street Boogie (Black Lion, 1974)
  • Kansas City Joys with Buddy Tate, Paul Quinichette (Sonet, 1976)
  • Crazy Legs & Friday Strut with Buddy Tate (Sackville, 1977)
  • Kansas City On My Mind (Black and Blue, 1977)
  • The Last of the Blue Devils (Atlantic, 1978)
  • A Tribute to Fats Waller (Sackville, 1978)
  • Kansas City Hustle (Sackville, 1978)
  • The Big Apple Bash (Atlantic, 1979)[7]
  • The Man from Muskogee with Claude Williams (Sackville, 1980)
  • Tuxedo Junction with Don Thompson (Sackville, 1980)
  • Last of the Whorehouse Piano Players with Ralph Sutton (Chaz Jazz, 1980)
  • Saturday Night Function with the Sackville All-Stars (Sackville, 1981)
  • After Hours (Storyville, 1982)
  • Best of Friends with Al Casey (JSP, 1982)
  • Blowin' in from K.C. with Joe Thomas (Uptown, 1983)
  • Just a Lucky So and So (Sackville, 1984)
  • Live in France Vol. 2 with Eddie Cleanhead Vinson (Black and Blue, 1984)
  • Roll 'em (Black and Blue, 1987)
  • Last of the Whorehouse Piano Players with Ralph Sutton (Chiaroscuro, 1989)
  • Paris All-Star Blues (Jazz Heritage, 1991)
  • Blue Pianos with Axel Zwingenberger (Vagabond, 1991)
  • A Tribute to Charlie Parker (Limelight/Musicmasters, 1991)
  • Stride Piano Summit with Dick Hyman, Ralph Sutton (Milestone, 1991)
  • Jimmy Witherspoon & Jay McShann (Black Lion, 1992)
  • The Missouri Connection with John Hicks (Reservoir, 1993)[8]
  • Some Blues (Chiaroscuro, 1993)
  • Airmail Special (Sackville, 1994)
  • Swingmatism with Don Thompson (Sackville, 1994)
  • Piano Playhouse (Night Train, 1996)
  • Hootie's Jumpin' Blues with Duke Robillard (Stony Plain, 1997)
  • My Baby with the Black Dress On (Chiaroscuro, 1998)
  • Still Jumpin' the Blues with Duke Robillard, Maria Muldaur (Stony Plain, 1999)
  • What a Wonderful World (Groove Note, 1999)
  • Hootie! (Chiaroscuro, 2000)
  • Goin' to Kansas City with Duke Robillard (Stony Plain, 2003)
  • Hootie Blues (Stony Plain, 2006)

As sideman

With Clarence Gatemouth Brown

  • Cold Strange (Black and Blue, 1977)
  • More Stuff (Black and Blue, 1985)
  • Pressure Cooker (Alligator, 1985)
  • Just Got Lucky (Orbis, 1993)

With others


  1. Yanow, Scott. "Jay McShann: Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved June 14, 2014.
  2. "Jay McShann Blog". Jaymcshann.com. September 23, 2012. Retrieved June 14, 2014.
  3. "Gus Johnson: 1913–2000". Jazzhouse.org. Retrieved June 14, 2014.
  4. The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz. Books.google.es. November 18, 1999. Retrieved June 14, 2014.
  5. Peter Keepnews (December 9, 2006). "Jay McShann, 90, Jazz Pianist, Bandleader and Vocalist, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved August 11, 2019.
  6. "Jay McShann: Kansas City Blues Pianist". The Independent. December 9, 2006. Archived from the original on February 22, 2014.
  7. Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: M". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved March 7, 2019 via robertchristgau.com.
  8. "Jay McShann: Discography". AllMusic.com. Retrieved June 14, 2014.
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