“Big Jim” Wynn, one of the pioneers of the post-war West Coast blues scene, was a dynamic and influential tenor saxophonist. Born on January 21, 1908, in El Paso, Texas, Wynn’s contributions to blues, jazz, and R&B had a profound impact on the development of these genres.
Wynn began his musical journey in the mid-1920s, honing his skills on the saxophone and quickly establishing a reputation as a formidable player. In the late 1930s, he made his way to Los Angeles, where he would become a fixture of the vibrant West Coast music scene.
Throughout the 1940s and ’50s, Wynn led his own bands, showcasing his robust and hard-edged style of playing that resonated deeply with the audiences of the time. His ensembles, like the “Big Jim Wynn Orchestra” or the “Big Jim Wynn Combo,” regularly backed various vocalists, including legends such as Wynonie Harris and Big Joe Turner. The instrumental “Fat Meat” recorded in 1945, became a local hit and an exemplar of his hard-driving saxophone style.
Despite being an accomplished bandleader, Wynn was also a highly sought-after session musician. His distinctive tenor saxophone sound can be heard on numerous recordings by an array of artists spanning R&B, jazz, and blues. His most famous session work includes contributions to the timeless classics “Cherry Red” and “Around The Clock Blues.”
“Big Jim” Wynn’s contribution to the music world also includes his role as a mentor. He provided guidance and opportunities to upcoming talents, including influential guitarist T-Bone Walker, and tenor saxophonist Maxwell Davis, both of whom played in his bands early in their careers.
Wynn’s career slowed down in the 1960s as musical tastes shifted, but his legacy endured. His powerful, visceral style of saxophone playing helped define the sound of West Coast blues and R&B and paved the way for countless musicians who followed in his footsteps.
Page last updated 7/16/2023.