I recently had a fascinating chat with Jimmy regarding his career which began quite by accident as a solo singer in his birth country of Jamaica back in the 1950s.
Teaming up with The Vagabonds, Jimmy came to the UK in the mid 60s. On arrival in the UK Jimmy and The Vagabonds gained a residency at London’s Marquee Club, “There was a guy there called Harold Pendleton who said "I like your sound, I'll give you a trial!"", remembers Jimmy, "We supported The Who on a Tuesday night and we did that for a couple of weeks. We started to build up our own following and then he said "I'll give you your own spot on a Wednesday" and the whole thing just took off from there.”
Jimmy James and The Vagabonds recording of Red Red Wine
Jimmy James and The Vagabonds signed to Pye Records in 1966, becoming a big attraction on the tour circuit. When music journalist James Hamilton overheard the band recording the Neil Diamond composition Red Red Wine for their next album “He said “Hey! That is a single!, " remembers Jimmy, "We said “Don’t talk nonsense!, No DJ is going to play this!” It was so outside what was popular at the time, but the thing took off and it got to number 60 in the charts at the time we had a top 100 and to get to no 60 you were very lucky!”
Jimmy and The Vagabonds parted company in 1970, but Jimmy kept on recording, ultimately teaming up with Indian producer Biddu to produce further hits Now Is The Time and I’ll Go Where The Music Takes Me.
“We were in
Jersey doing cabaret;" says Jimmy, "I got the call from Biddu saying “You’re on Top of the Pops tomorrow”. I said “ Biddu how can we be? We haven’t got a record, he said “Oh yes we have, I’ll Go Where the Music Takes Me has charted!”
"Jimmy Young had played it and everyone went out and bought it. We didn't even have suits. We went out to the outfitters in
Jersey and got some suits for Top of the Pops. They sent a little private plane for us, flew us out, we recorded the thing and flew us back because we were contracted."