Kokomo Arnold is not well known today, but in Chicago in the mid-30s, he was a big player. The song that gave him his name, ‘Kokomo Blues’ was adapted by Robert Johnson as ‘Sweet Home Chicago’; ‘Dust My Broom’ came from another Kokomo song; and his ‘Milk Cow Blues’ has been covered by many artists. Kokomo was a dramatic slide-guitarist, who could also launch his strong, flexible voice into a powerful falsetto. His recordings were almost all made as a solo player, probably because he often took his guitar lines into a time signature that was a totlal mystery to anyone else.
Both Peetie and Kokomo were a big influence on Robert Johnson, who adapted Kokomo’s namesake track as ‘Sweet Home Chicago’; the line ‘Dust my Broom’ is from his ‘Sagefield Woman Blues’; and ‘Milk Cow Blues’ was reworked as ‘Milkcow’s Calf Blues’. ‘Milk Cow’ has also been covered by artists as disparate as Elvis, Aerosmith and Willie Nelson. Kokomo quit the business in 1938, reportedly in disgust at the meagre returns from the notoriously tight-fisted contract he had signed with ‘Ink’ Williams. He went to work in a Chicago factory and dropped out of sight, but after the 1960 release of an album of 30s material he shared with Peetie Wheatstraw, he was located by Blues researchers. However he had no enthusiasm for resurrecting his recording career, and refused the opportunity to be part of the Folk/Blues revival. He passed away from a heart attack in Chicago in 1968.