Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page

Jimmy SweetwaterA local fixture of the San Francisco music scene for over fifteen years, Jimmy Sweetwater has developed a reputation as one of San Francisco’s premier washboard and harmonica players.  He has performed and recorded with numerous Bay Area acts.  Prior to moving to San Francisco, he had already made appearances with a range of well known artists including Bo Diddley, country rocker Johnny Paycheck  and even the immortal Ella Fitzgerald.  His playing can be heard on the CDs of dozens of Bay Area artists.

His  harmonica style is influenced by many artist's. Jimmy's approach to playing  is simple and very soulful.
Bruce Iglauer from Alligator Records say's "I like the harp no fancy but feels good"

Playing the washboard with the sensibility of a drummer, he has developed his own versatile percussive style, able to fill the niche of a traditional trap drummer.  In fact Jimmy’s first instrument was drums.

While many people casually assume that a washboard player must play Cajun and related styles, this is not so with Jimmy’s playing. He has played washboard in many ensembles, ranging from old time rural country to traditional electric blues-rock to 1940s style jazz to indie rock and singer-songwriter fare.  This versatility is in fact related to his approach to the washboard, literally.  While many washboard players use sticks, spoons or metal thimbles, his setup sounds like a snare and he produces his sounds using metal brushes.

Jimmy first found his niche playing at the Albion club in San Francisco’s Mission district, managing to play there almost every other night of the week, doing the open mike sessions and playing with other local acts.  Some of the bands Jimmy has played and recorded with over the years in San Francisco include Chuck Prophet, Steve Yerkey, Patrick Winningham and Bone Cootes.   He has toured Europe with Pat Thomas and the Family Jewels, featuring ex-Avenger Pat Johnson.  He has also toured Europe as a member of Jimbo Trout and the Fish People. 

Recording credits include Chuck Prophet’s debut record “Brother Aldo” which also included musicians Rolley Salley (from Chris Isaak’s band) and Scott Mathews (Todd Rundgren) and Bone Cootes’ record, which included the late great saxophonist Steve Douglas, veteran of Elvis Presley’s bands and also keyboardist Austin De Lone.

He has also organized and promoted shows at The Great American Music Hall and Slims.

He currently resides in San Francisco were he stays very busy musically.

Jimmy is celebrating the release of his new Cd "Dirt Road by the Tracks."
He  is also  available for hire: as an add-on member for a band, recording work, stage production and touring.
You can hear MP3s of some of his session work at his web site:
 CDs are available on request.
Contact Jimmy at 415-385-6759 or e-mail to