Marr Sound Archives | Jimmy and Jeannie Cheatham Collection
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Scope and Content of Collection
The Jimmy and Jeannie Cheatham Collection contains audio documentation of live recordings, jam sessions, master and demo recordings, radio interviews; video documentation of television appearances and live concerts; as well as copies of various releases by Jimmy and Jeannie Cheatham and the Sweet Baby Blues Band.
Jeannie and Jimmy Cheatham and the Sweet Baby Blues Band played in the Kansas City blues style at its best. Jeannie Cheatham’s musical style was shaped in the church choir in Akron, Ohio. She began to study piano when she was five and went on to play in the school band. She and Jimmy Cheatham taught at the University of Wisconsin before moving to San Diego in 1978.
Jimmy Cheatham retired as Professor Emeritus status in 1993 from the University of California at San Diego as Professor of Music. Jimmy was such a valuable resource, however, that UCSD officials hired him back immediately to continue in his role as Jazz Ensemble Director. In 1993, Jimmy and the UCSD Jazz Ensemble were selected by the San Diego Music Awards Committee for Best Jazz Ensemble. The Cheathams and the Sweet Baby Blues Band were voted as the Best Jazz Band in the area by the same group.
Jimmy taught Improvisation and Black Music History and was the Director of UCSD’s Jazz Program during his active teaching years. Over the years, he played bass trombone with Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Thad Jones and Ornette Coleman, and was Musical Director for Chico Hamilton. He arranged all the songs for the Sweet Baby Blues Band and co-wrote with his wife, Jeannie, most of their original songs.
Jeannie performed with Big Mama Thornton off and on for ten years. She was featured with Thornton and Sippie Wallace in the award-winning PBS television special Three Generations of the Blues. In 1984, she toured with Cab Calloway. Prior to that, she was on the road accompanying blues greats such as T-Bone Walker, Joe Williams, Al Hibbler, Dinah Washington, Odetta and Jimmy Witherspoon. In 1990, she appeared with Marian McPartland on the popular radio series Piano Jazz.
The Cheathams toured Europe, performing at the Nice Festival and the North Sea Jazz Festival, among others. Down Beat magazine, reviewing North Sea, wrote, “And there was no better way to end the night than joining Jeannie and Jimmy Cheatham and the Sweet Baby Blues Band for a 3 a.m. sing along of 'Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On.' ”
Jeannie and Jimmy Cheatham and the Sweet Baby Blues Band performed at the Long Beach Blues Festival and the Long Beach Jazz Festival, the San Francisco Blues Festival, Playboy Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, Chicago Jazz Festival and the Fujitsu Concord Jazz Festival. They have also appeared in a jazz festival in New Zealand. They played to packed houses at Catalina’s and Birdland West in Los Angeles and Long Beach, respectively; the Horton Grand in San Diego, the Great American Music Hall and Kimball’s East in the San Francisco area, Jazz Alley in Seattle and the Four Queens in Las Vegas.
The band delighted Johnny Carson when they appeared on The Tonight Show that closed the 1988 series. Jeannie was nominated in 1988 and 1993 by the W.C. Handy Blues Music Awards for Traditional Female Artist of the Year. In 1989, their album Back to the Neighborhood was nominated for a Handy Award. Her and Jimmy’s song “Blues Like Jay McShann” was nominated by the W.C. Handy Blues Music Award Committee for Song of the Year in 1992.
The motto of the Sweet Baby Blues Band was “Nobody goes home feeling bad.” And nobody ever did.