Blues harmonica star James Cotton dies

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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 aged 81.

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

The Mississippi Delta native performed professionally since age nine.

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.

© AP 2017

Photo: Darrin Phegley/The Gleaner via AP