James "Yank" Rachell was the primary exponent of blues mandolin, although he also played guitar, violin, harp and sang expertly well. Born on a farm outside Brownsville, Tennessee, Yank Rachell picked up the mandolin at the age of eight, mainly teaching himself; an early encounter with "Hambone" Willie Newbern early on helped him as well. Rachell began to work dances with singer and guitarist Sleepy John Estes in the early '20s. In early 1929, he co-formed the Three J's Jug Band with Estes and pianist Jab Jones. The Three J's Jug Band were an instant hit and managed to work the dances during the lucrative jug-band craze in Memphis and traveled often to Paducah, Kentucky. The group recorded 14 sides credited jointly to Estes and Rachell for Victor for 1929 and 1930.