- Looking for Someone (1958)
- Got It made In The Shade (1958)
- Have Faith In My Love (1959)
- No More Crying The Blues (1959)
- I Just Don’t Know (1959)
- What’s The Use (1959)
- Why Do I Love You (1959)
- The Longest Walk (1959)
by Katie Obringer (SHS)
“Mississippi was a great place to be while growing up and playing music,” says Alton Lott of his experiences growing up in a small town in Mississippi (Lott interview).
The influence of Alton Lott and Jimmy Harrell’s rural upbringing is apparent in the musical style and content of the musical group “Alton and Jimmy.”
“My earliest musical memories are those of sitting around my grandpa’s house listening to my Daddy, his sisters, and their friends and neighbors play and sing gospel and hillbilly music. Instead of going outside with the rest of the family and neighbor kids, Alton and I spent a lot of time absorbing the music they played and sang. I couldn’t wait to learn to play the guitar and sing so I could join in” (Harrell interview).
Alton Lott was born on June 17, 1940, and Jimmy Harrell was born on November 16, 1936. They were both born in the home of their grandfather, John Harrell, in the Hillsboro community outside Forest, Mississippi. Alton’s parents Evaughn and Peggy Lott, along with Jimmy’s father, Monroe Harrell, performed throughout the South with hillbilly bands.
Both Alton and Jimmy learned to play the guitar at an early age, and Alton even sang on the radio with his parents’ band in the third grade. Alton attended grammar school in Forest, Mississippi and graduated from Forest Hill High School, Jackson, Mississippi, in 1958. Jimmy attended schools in Hillsboro and Forest, Mississippi, and graduated from Hernando High School, Hernando, Mississippi, in 1954.
During his senior year in high school, Jimmy was a member of a gospel quartet with Jimmy Smith, Gene Thompson, and Lamar Manning. Nancy Carol Keaton was their pianist. They entered the State Gospel singing contest, sponsored by the Future Farmers of America, held at Mississippi State College in Starkville. They tied for first place. In the spring of 1954, they were asked to do a concert at the Starkville High School auditorium. Soon thereafter they appeared with the Blackwood Brothers and Statesmen at Ellis Auditorium (Harrell interview).
When Jimmy enlisted in the United States Navy, he was stationed in San Diego, California. There he formed a musical group called the “Jim-Bobs” with Bob Allen and Bob Cohen. After Jimmy left the Navy, he and Alton began to perform together as “Alton and Jimmy.” They cut two songs entitled “Looking For Someone” and “Got It Made In The Shade” for Ace Record Company at the Cosmo Recording Studio in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1958 (WWW Rockabilly Hall of Fame presents Alton and Jimmy-Together Again).
On April 5, 1959, Alton and Jimmy went to Memphis to make a record for Sam Phillips on his Sun label. Out of this session came Sun 323 “Have Faith In My Love” and “No More Crying The Blues” ( Lee). Later that year Alton and Jimmy recorded “I Just Don’t Know,” “What’s The Use,” “Why Do I Love You,” and “The Longest Walk.” In late 1959, Jimmy was recalled into the Navy. While stationed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga, he formed “Jimmy and Gene and the Rhythm Kings.” Alton joined the “Faux Pas” and spent fourteen years touring the U.S with them (WWW Rockabilly Hall of Fame).
Alton and Jimmy’s music was re-released and re-issued throughout the seventies and eighties. They then were inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame with their song “No More Crying The Blues” and “Have Faith In My Love.” This event gave them the knowledge that they had fans throughout the United States, Germany, Holland, Finland, Japan, and many other parts of the world (Lee). On May 21, 1998, Alton and Jimmy stood behind the microphone for the first time in thirty-nine years. “You just can’t ever take the rock out of an old rocker!” said Alton during this emotional event. After that Alton and Jimmy left Memphis and headed to Jackson, Mississippi, for their first gig in thirty-nine years (Lee).
Today, Jimmy lives with his wife, the former Weva Lilian (Lee) Strohm of Grenada, Mississippi, in Jacksonville, Florida. They have one son, Captain James H. Harrell II. They also have one daughter, Wendy Leigh Harrell, and one granddaughter, Gayle Marie Godwin. Alton now resides in Kansas City, Missouri, (WWW Rockabilly Hall of Fame).
- 1936-Jimmy Harrell was born in a Hillsboro community outside Forest, Mississippi.
- 1940-Alton Lott was born in a Hillsboro community outside Forest, Mississippi.
- 1954-Jimmy graduated from Hernando High School.
- 1954-Jimmy enlisted in the United States Navy.
- 1958-Alton graduated from Forest Hill High School in Jackson, Mississippi.
- 1958-Alton and Jimmy cut two songs for Ace entitled Looking For Someone and Got It Made In The Shade at Cosmo Recording Studio in New Orleans, Louisiana.
- 1959-Recorded Have Faith In My Love and No More Crying The Blues. Then later recorded I Just Don’t Know, What’s the Use, Why Do I Love You, and The Longest Walk.
- 1959-Jimmy was recalled into the Navy.
- 1998-Alton and Jimmy stood behind the microphone for the first time in 39 years at the old Memphis Recording Studio.
by Katie Obringer (SHS)
Who is your favorite musician?
Alton: My favorite musician singer is Ray Charles.
Jimmy: My favorite pop singer is Celine Dion. She has the purest singing voice of anyone who has recorded popular music. Lorrie Morgan is my favorite country singer and John Fogerty is my favorite rock musician.
What musician do you think has influenced you the most?
Alton: My first real influence was Scotty Moore who played guitar for Elvis but we could talk for hours about musicians who paved the way.
Jimmy: I was heavily influenced by the spiritual singing and playing by the black people whose church was just down the road. I spent a lot of time outside listening to them. My greatest inspiration came from our fellow Mississippians, The Blackwood Brothers Quartet. We used to attend their concerts at the Ellis Auditorium in Memphis and see them along with the Statesmen Quartet and many other Southern Gospel groups.
What kind of student were you in school?
Alton: I was a good student in school and really liked being there. It was a great time to be in high school. Again we could talk a long time about growing up in the 50’s with all the music, cars, drive in restaurants…and ROCKABILLY.
Jimmy: –In school, I was what you would consider a bookworm with a little bit of dreaming thrown in. When I wasn’t studying, I was writing songs. I was in the high school chorus and the band but we lived out in the country and the lack of transportation made it difficult for me to participate in most after school activities. I did play junior high football though.
How has Mississippi or growing up in Mississippi influenced your music?
Alton: Mississippi was a great place to be while growing up and playing music. I would always have my radio tuned to WOKJ where they played the blues and really got an education about music and how it should be played.
Jimmy: I was also influenced by living just south of Memphis and listening to the rhythm and blues, early rock and roll, country, and gospel on Memphis radio stations.
Do you have any advice for future musicians?
Alton: The main advice for any musician is to practice and then practice. You play better if you practice better.
Jimmy: –My advice to anyone who has talent and the desire to become a musician is to work hard and follow your dreams…it worked for me. I went one to earn a Masters Degree in Management (Healthcare Administration) at Central Michigan University, spent 37 years in the Navy, retired as a Captain, Medical Service Corps, and now can devote much of my time to writing, singing, and recording, music again.
Anything else you would like to include?
Alton: Just to have been included on Sun Records was and is my greatest thrill in music. The early Sun was and still is the greatest.