Blues harmonica star James Cotton dead at 81

James Cotton
FILE - In this June 13, 2014 file photo, blues legend James Cotton ferociously plays the harmonica as he entertains the crowd at the W.C. Handy Blues and Barbecue Festival in Henderson, Ky. Cotton, a Grammy Award-winning blues harmonica master whose full-throated sound backed such blues legends as Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson II and Howlin' Wolf, has died at age 81. A statement from Alligator Records, Cotton's label, says he died Thursday, March 16, 2017, of pneumonia at St. David's Medical Center in Austin. (Darrin Phegley/The Gleaner via AP)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – James Cotton, a Grammy Award-winning blues harmonica master whose full-throated sound backed such blues legends as Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson II and Howlin’ Wolf, has died at age 81.

A statement from Alligator Records, Cotton’s label, says he died Thursday of pneumonia at St. David’s Medical Center in Austin.

The Mississippi Delta native performed professionally since age 9. Cotton backed Muddy Waters in his landmark album “At Newport” on Chess Records.

After going solo in the 1960s, Cotton released almost 30 albums, including his 1996 Grammy Award-winning Verve album, “Deep In The Blues.” His most recent album, “Cotton Mouth Man” for Alligator Records in 2013, was nominated for a Grammy.

(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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