"Tell You What I Know...
One day yeah,
my name up in lights...
tell you what I know..."
-jj thames. (2012)
ABOUT jj thames.
The Mississippi Blues Diva
Raw Sugar, JJ Thames’ follow-up to her debut album is a collection of 13 original works in collaboration with Eddie Cotton, produced by Eddie Cotton (also lead guitar on the album) co-produced by Thames, and recorded at Malaco Recording Studios in Jackson, Mississippi. Thames continues her reign as a powerful chanteuse. She has performed all over the United States with artists as a backing vocalist, and the world (28 countries and counting including the US) as a frontwoman. She has even penned songs for and vocal coached some mainstream pop, R&B, soca, rock and hip-hop artists, but her path to success was not always glamorous or easy.
In 2012, JJ Thames was a struggling single mother on welfare, living in a homeless shelter with her two sons. She stood in a shower stall every morning and evening singing her original song, "Tell You What I Know" as a positive affirmation to keep going- to continue chasing her dreams even though the outlook was quite dismal at the time. A year later JJ signed a record deal, releasing her debut album with her self-empowerment anthem as the title track 8 months after that, and blasted off into the blues stratosphere, becoming one of one of the most popular female blues acts in the world right now.
Raised in a General Motors fueled family, the classically and jazz trained JJ began performing at the tender age of 9 years old, and became a blues- shouting banshee by the time she was just 18 years old. She cut her teeth after moving down to Jackson, Mississippi, where she performed with the celebrated “Chitlin’ Circuit” superstars such as Marvin Sease. Overcoming Aspergers, homelessness, single parenthood, a death of a child, a bitter divorce, bad business deals and more, Thames has proven to be a true survivor as she scrambled her way to the top of the roots music heap, creating a world-renowned reputation at a dizzying pace, sharing her testimony of chasing dreams, finding purpose, and the salvation she found in the blues with anyone who would listen.
A colorful mixture of traditional blues, soul, reggae, and alternative and roots rock, Thames began her career in the early 00’s onstage with musicians, Bobby Blue Bland, Peggy Scott Adams, Willie Clayton and Denise LaSalle to name just a few. She started her solo career as a neo-soul/spoken word/femcee and diversified her influence when she was discovered by and began to sing background vocals for reggae-rock band Outlaw Nation- becoming immersed in another form of roots music, Reggae and Ska. As a background singer for Outlaw Nation, JJ began touring with many reggae and rock legends including Fishbone, The (English) Beat, Israel Vibrations, Bad Brains, The Meat Puppets, and cult favorites Slightly Stoopid and 311. Her fans are a mixture of true genre-bending, traditional blues fans, southern soul blues lovers, and ska rockers. Rockabilly and swing dancers, grey-haired hippies, eclectic millennials, and everyday folk of all ages flock to see JJ and hear her musical messages of love, pain, hope, freedom, overcoming adversity, faith, and empowerment.
Sassy, matter-of-fact, witty, and bigger than life-Thames’ live shows are the stuff of legend. She honors the bold blues women of the past with both feet firmly planted in the now. With her heart on her sleeve, she belts, growls, shouts, croons, moans, dances, writhes and shakes from a place deep within her soul that harkens back to the days of Chess, Bluebird and Stax Records. Dubbed the "Future of the Blues" by the legendary Dorothy Moore (Misty Blue), She uses music as therapy and writes from her own life adventures, and chooses material with positive affirmations that leave the audience feeling healed and exhilarated. A natural born storyteller, she often punctuates her performances with funny anecdotes, authentic life lessons, knowing eyes, and a warm smile. Concertgoers often share that attending a Jj Thames show is "Refreshing", "Like going to church", and "awe-inspiring." Tears are frequently shed, goose bumps raised, and burdens lifted as Jj shares her musical stories and seems to speak personally to and identify with every person in the room.
A show that is part revival meeting and celebration of all that is woman, Thames will deliver a Mississippi juke joint-tongue-in-cheek traditional shuffle like her own "I'm Leaving" or Ruth Brown’s “Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean,” encouraging audiences to leave behind their dancing reservations. She’ll slay the crowd with her foot-stomping rendition of “Wang Dang Doodle” or testify with a sweat-drenched passionate rendition of Etta James' "I'd Rather Go Blind" or The Allman Brothers' "Whipping Post" like no other. The granddaughter of a gun-toting, no non-sense juke joint owner/boarding mistress to black blueswomen and men touring through the Virginia hills in the 40s through early 60's, blues is in JJ's blood, and it shows. Thames’ performance is Mississippi by way of Memphis with a quick stopover in Detroit and hop on over to Chicago.
The Detroit Free Press said it best, “She’s young and beautiful to watch, she’s a wonderful storyteller and her vocals are consistently breathtaking. Her shows are electrifying, and crowd-pleasing. This doe-eyed Motown [Detroit, Michigan] native has the “it” factor. Look out world.”
Her debut album, Tell You What I Know (2014 DeChamp Records), received much acclaim and stayed in the top 10 on Billboard’s Hot Singles Sales Chart for 25 weeks – 2 of those at #1. The album also made it as high as #3 on the Billboard’s Blues Chart. The video for the title track by the same name featured on BET Centric Television (Now BET Her) for 4 months resulting in JJ being named a BET Music Matters Artist. Tell You What I Know was also Roots Music Report's 2014 Soul album of the year. Still receiving moderate commercial and satellite radio airplay from both of her albums, JJ currently amasses 56 thousand plays on Spotify every month and tours nationally and internationally 10 to 11 months out of the year.
Jj Thames' prophetic chant from 2012 has come to pass, her name is up in lights all around the world and she has no intentions of slowing down any time soon with a new album, autobiographical book, mentorship program, and documentary slated for a 2019 release.
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It’s clear that soul-blues is her calling. At age 30, Thames’ stage presence and vocal delivery are more reminiscent of singers from the golden era of the artform than they are of most blues belters on the scene today. Her delivery is never rushed, and her ability to express deep emotion is on par with someone twice her age as she delivers everything from downhome juke joint stylings to full-blown torch songs, all containing messages of positive affirmation.
-Marty Gunther Blues Blast Magazine
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