James tells his story
how he came to the organ:
Hello, and thank you for listening! My name is James Simpson, and I would like to first
thank the International Archives of Jazz Organ and Jürgen Wolf for this honor that
I have been granted as your Organist of the Month - thank you very much!
I was introduced to the Hammond organ as a small child. My father was a big jazz lover, and
I was also introduced to it in the church. I grew up in Ceres, California, and I went to the
Baptist church, and the organ is part of the Baptist church. So I was fortunate enough to be
around several great organists, to include my uncle and my aunt who were ministers of music.
Every week, several times a week, I would hear the organ in the church; it was just a part of our culture.
Through my father and his music collection, the first thing I remember hearing organwise that
grabbed me was Bill Doggett, and that was his "Honky Tonk" and the flip side of that was "Pimento".
I heard Booker T. & The MG's "Hip Hugger" album, Billy Preston's "Outer Space" and several other tunes
of his. Willie Mitchell had an album called "Solid Soul", one of the Hodges brothers I believe was playing
organ on there, and there are so many more. What really grabbed me was Chester Thompson from Tower of Power.
His style of playing was so funky, I really, really loved that as a kid. Sly & The Family Stone, then of
course, Jimmy Smith. When I first heard his "When Johnny Comes Marching Home", that was quite an experience
for me. It really made sense of a lot of things I was hearing as far as the organ being the centerpiece of
the group, handling the bass, the comping and also the lead voice, soloing and what not. Jimmy McGriff's "Worm"
album had a big impact on me, too. It was a different type of thing. Richard "Groove" Holmes, his album
"Soul Message" was another big one. And Jack McDuff had an album called "The Natural Thing" that really grabbed
me because I was also a saxophone player at one time, and there is some great stuff going on on that record.
And the whole thing just captured me - McDuff was very, very funky, just grooving.
As far as me playing, I didn't start until my late twenties, which was the late nineties when I met a guy who
is a great guitarist, his name is John Ussery. John hired me to play piano, Wurlitzer and to do horn arrangements
for his album which came out in about 1998 or so. He also wanted some Hammond organ on it, so I said: "I'm not an
organist, but I'll do it if you provide a B3". I didn't own an organ at the time, hadn't even thought about owning one!
I just thought it was way out of my league. So whenever he went and rented one and let me mess around with it for a
while, I fell in love with it as soon as I touched it and heard it. In the end, I said: "This is what I want".
Actually, John wound up buying me a C3 within the next day or so. He had it at my house in a truck. So it was
basically just a blessing to be able to have that. And that was my introduction to playing.
That's pretty much my story there. You can find out more about me on my website www.simpsonsound.com, and I once
again want to thank Jürgen Wolf and the IAJO for this honor and to all the players and listeners out there:
"Hey, whatever you do, do not forsake the groove!"
Thank you very much and - keep groovin'!
James has also produced an audio file (5:37 min, 5,279 kB)
speaking about his way to the Hammond organ. Click on the
MP3 logo to listen to James !