DeShay's first "guitar" was a
one-string rig he concoted by nailing a piece of baling wire to
a post and tightening it with a snuff box. From that single-string
instrument he was able to play melodies and change pitch by mashing
down on the wire. DeShay's earliest influences included the great
Charlie Patton, Howlin' Wolf and Robert Jr. Lockwood.
James was already an accomplished guitar player when he moved
to St. Louis in the mid 40's, when he struck up a friendship with
Little Walter Jacobs with whom he played around town. James often
also worked with Robert Nighthawk and Big Joe Williams. By the
early 1950's he had his own band, and by the 1960's his own tavern
which he operated and played in. (The BBC shot footage of James
there in 1976 for part of the 'Devil's Music' series) Sadly, James
never recorded commercially, but his memory and music lives on
in all his fans.