James Yancey Jones, known by his stage name Tail Dragger Jones, was an American Chicago blues singer born on September 30, 1940, in Altheimer, Arkansas. Raised by his grandparents, he discovered blues music as a child and began performing in the 1960s. Jones earned his nickname, Tail Dragger, from his habit of arriving late at Howlin’ Wolf performances.
He moved to Chicago in 1966, where he worked as an auto mechanic and started performing locally. Howlin’ Wolf’s influence shaped his raw and gritty approach to Chicago blues. He later became a full-time singer, collaborating with notable backing musicians and releasing commercially unsuccessful singles.
In a tragic incident on July 11, 1993, in Chicago, Jones fatally shot blues artist Boston Blackie during a dispute over payment that had escalated from their appearance at the Chicago Blues Festival a month earlier. Jones claimed self-defense but was convicted of second-degree murder and served 17 months of a four-year prison sentence.
Despite his setbacks, Jones continued performing in Chicago blues clubs. His debut album, “Crawlin’ Kingsnake,” was released in 1996. He went on to release several more albums and collaborated with fellow musicians like Bob Corritore.
Jones married six times and had multiple children. He passed away on September 4, 2023, at the age of 82.