Chicago back-alley, down-in-the-bottoms blues singer, Tail Dragger was born James Yancy Jones in the west Delta town of Altheimer, Arkansas in 1940. He earned his stage name as a pleading, floor-crawling Howlin’ Wolf imitator in west side Chicago clubs. He has related in interviews that it was a name bestowed on him by his long-time friend, the Wolf himself the original “Tail Dragger” who found the live antics of “Crawlin’ James” (Dragger’s original nickname) amusing and even allowed him to sit in with his band.
Tail Dragger worked primarily as a truck mechanic and long-haul trucker, and would make weekend appearances at clubs to sing. It was only later in life that he seriously pursued a music career. His first release, Crawlin’ Kingsnake (St. George) came out in 1996. He shortly found a comfortable home with Chi- cago’s respected Delmark Records which first issued American People in 1998 and followed with My Head is Bald: Live at Vern’s Friendly Lounge (2005) and Live at Rooster’s Lounge (2009), both of which were also issued as DVDs which present the full video experience of Dragger’s wild live performances.
In 2013, Delmark issued Stop Lyin, a long-lost recording made in 1982 which fantastically captures Dragger performing with a raw ensemble from his customary old west side blues milieu.
He has been anthologized on several compilation CDs. Dragger’s most recent recording, accompanied by harp player Bob Corritore, is titled Longtime Friends in the Blues (Delta Groove).