Who’s the cat that’s got 15 chins and a line of jive? Hint: He’s slightly plump on the solid side, he don’t shake it no more from head to toe than he do from side to side, he’s five feet tall and he’s five feet wide…he’s a rockin’ old cat a real hep fat, he’s Mr. Five by Five!!
Jimmy Rushing blues singer par excellence. Blues shouter, jazz singer, ballad singer, this man sang for a number of years with the Count Basie Band. In my mind, Rushing is one of the tops in the blues/jazz field. The best ones can make you jump and sweat then bring you to tears with a soulful ballad. Rushing could do this, at the drop of a hat, it seemed. Big Joe Turner is another that immediately comes to mind as a master of the jump blues. That will be in a future article.
If you folks are not familiar with this rotund lover man with the powerful voice then go do some Spotify-ing. Rushing commands every song and makes us husky men feel so much better about ourselves because you know all them women folk are just a swoonin’ over the robust man’s croonin’! Plus, the man dresses as sharp as a tack. Chicks dig that! Jimmy Rushing, the male equivalent of Virginia ham. Go dig on some Jimmy R., you can thank me later.
The first painting was one of my first portraits of a jazz dude. It resides in the home of a good friend that had lived near Chicago and she just had to have it. I asked her to name a Rushing song, she named “Sweet Home Chicago”. I figured that it was cool that Jimmy was going to a decent home. I painted this in 2009 and was just starting to mess with strange backgrounds. I use purple because it is a great color and it represents the hierarchy of this bluesman’s royalty. I saw on an LP cover that Jimmy was wearing an orange suit in one pic and it looked very dashing. Orange brings out his spirit, his brightness and it takes huevos for a very chunky man to wear orange. Is this the first inkling of “orange is the new black”?? Rushing as trendsetter! He also has a twinkle in his eye and a cool look that is on his face. Once again folks, I am not trained or schooled, but these wonderful looks come out on canvas and I don’t have control of it yet. I still think I am being guided by unseen forces during these moments. Hopefully I capture the spirit of the person that I am depicting. You can all decide.
The second painting (done 4 years later) resides in the home of writer/music scholar/New York resident Iman Lababedi, and has had a couple transformations. I originally did his portrait on a black canvas with just his face in blue. I thought it was done, bluesman in blue, simple, but something kept eating at me…like it could look better. So dig, When we moved into this house, that was built in 1942, it looked like it had the original linoleum, complete with cigarette burns but it had a cool pattern, of course, I replaced it with tile, but it got me to delving into old linoleum patterns as art. That was truly an art. There are some bitchen patterns on old flooring. So I started monkeying around with background patterns and thought how cool would it be if there was a Jimmy Rushing linoleum pattern out there?! I would buy that for sure! So if anyone out there works for Armstrong Floors, ya gots a few customers!
So two paintings of Rushing so far…I have a feeling that Mr. 5 x 5 and I will see each other again…for he is truly a remarkable singer and talent and one can really never know if he’s coming or going. Folks, get into some Rushing, y’all can thank me later, and you will… so try jumpin’ with the fat man, until next week, The Big Huerta.
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