Little Jake Mitchell
So much of today’s blues and soul music is performed and recorded by younger artists who studied the masters by listening and watching. Little Jake Mitchell got his blues the hard way: by living them.
It started as a youth in Tampa, Florida, performing in roadside talent contests to win loaves of Wholesome Bread to feed the family. It continued as a teenage prodigy, where he recalls singing in traveling in road shows on the Chitlin’ Circuit that included the likes of B.B. King, Sam Cooke and James Brown. It was the notoriety from those shows that helped a 15-year-old Mitchell make history in his new home of Gainesville, Florida.
While performing with his new band, Little Jake & the Blenders, Mitchell was approached by the University of Florida and asked to perform at the school’s annual football pep rally, “Gator Growl.”
“Now at this point, you’re talking 1960, they didn’t allow black people into (Florida Field),” Mitchell said. “I told them that we weren’t performing, and they really wanted us to perform, unless they let my people in.”
After some deliberation, Mitchell and his Blenders desegregated one of the largest stadiums in America at the time.
Jake went on to record in Detroit for Impact and Newtown Records, recording the Northern Soul classic “Not a Chance in a Million” along the way. He founded his own label, Golden Hit Records, which he still owns today.
Now retired from a career as an executive chef, Jake has settled down in Gainesville and, along with his new band The Soul Searchers, are doing their part to reinvent a genre of music forgotten by the invention of auto tune and drum machines.