Jimmy Gourley, bebop guitarist

Discography by Christian Oestreicher
First published August 2015

James Pasco "Jimmy" Gourley was born in Saint Louis, MS, on June 9, 1926. His parents came from Deep South (Arkansas and Tennessee) and Saint Louis was a good step to North. Eventually they arrived in Chicago. When Jimmy was 4 or 5, they left for San Francico (during the depression) and back to Chicago in 1934-1935. Jimmy went to school with Lou Levy in Rodgers Park. The family moved in the South of Chicago and in the highschool Jimmy played in an orchestra lead by a certain Lee Konitz. The professional debut in Oklahoma City when he was 17. Shortly after, the army, in the Navy to New Guinea. Back in Chicago in 1946 and the Jimmy Raney shock. He met also Ronnie Singer he liked much. He saw Bird in the Argyle Lounge in 1947 : second shock. At that time he played with Gene Ammons, Sonny Stitt, Doug Mettome and Lou Levy in the Jay Burkhart Orchestra, also with Earl Hines, Vido Musso, Tiny Kahn. He got a GI Bill and then went to Paris in April 1951, playing at the Tabou with Henri Renaud, Martial Solal, Bobby Jaspar and also with Bud Powell. In 1956, shortly back in the US, he worked with Anita O'Day. Back in 1958 in Paris where he should stay until his death on December 8, 2008. One of his highlight was to play in the last recording session of his idol, Lester Young.

The rest of the story is in the discography, created using the wonderful BRIAN database application built by Steve Albin. For details about Brian, look at jazzdiscography.com. Go also to steve-albin.com.

This was not possible without the kind help from Jimmy Gourley himself, and also from his son Sean, his wife Rolande, Dominique Lemerle, Jean-Thierry Roussilon, Jean-Luc Gautier, Félix Sportis and many more.

Jean-Pierre Leloir
The arrival of Jimmy Raney in Paris, 1954, from left to right : X, Jimmy Gourley, René Thomas (sitting), Bob Aubert, Sacha Distel & Jimmy Raney (photo : Jean-Pierre Leloir).

Discography Pages

Cabu Sempé

Drawings by Cabu and Sempé respectively.