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Blues harmonica star James Cotton dead at 81

Associated Press logo Associated Press 3/17/2017
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) © The Associated Press 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.

FILE - In this Feb. 26, 1997 file photo, blues musician James Cotton holds up a thumbs-up sign after winning the Best Traditional Blues Album during the pre-telecast program of the 39th Annual Grammy Awards in New York. Cotton won for his work "Deep In The Blues." 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. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Feb. 26, 1997 file photo, blues musician James Cotton holds up a thumbs-up sign after winning the Best Traditional Blues Album during the pre-telecast program of the 39th Annual Grammy Awards in New York. Cotton won for his work "Deep In The Blues." 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. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

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

FILE - In this Aug. 17, 2005 file photo, legendary blues man James Cotton performs at the B.B. King Blues Club in New York City. 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. (AP Photo/Jeff Christensen) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Aug. 17, 2005 file photo, legendary blues man James Cotton performs at the B.B. King Blues Club in New York City. 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. (AP Photo/Jeff Christensen)

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.

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