Born in Indianola, Mississippi, in 1904, Jazz Gillum was an outstanding harmonica player who was perhaps only second to (John Lee) Sonny Boy Williamson in popularity for recording work during the 1920ís and 1930ís. He ran away from home when aged only seven to live with relatives in Charleston (Mississippi), and by contemporary accounts he was already proficient on the harmonica at that age. He then spent the next 10 years doing odd jobs and unskilled work whilst also playing the street corners and the local party and picnic circuit. When he was 19 years old he migrated to Chicago and soon teamed up with Big Bill Broonzy. He spent the rest of the decade gigging with Broonzy and other local stars of the time.

The 1930ís were good years for Gillum and he spent a lot of time in the recording studio, both as an accompanist and on lead, particularly with Lestor Melrose and Bluebird. Gillumís fortunes took a dive in the 1940ís after the demise of Bluebird, and he never again regained the success he enjoyed in the previous decades. Jazz Gillum died in 1966 in Chicago when he was shot during an argument at a gambling den.