Born in Colchester, England, James Hunter grew up with a taste for vintage Fifties R&B, thanks to his grandmother's collection of 78 RPM records. After learning the guitar from his older brother, the soulful singer spent most of his early adulthood singing in clubs around Essex. In the late 1980s, he released three albums under the name Howlin' Wilf and was soon noticed by Van Morrison, who hired him as his back up singer in the early 1990s. After releasing Kick it Around in 2001, Hunter's vocal talents finally got their due with People Gonna Talk (2006). Produced by Liam Watson (The White Stripes), the album's vintage sounds earned him a Grammy nomination and countless year-end critics Best of lists. His follow-up 2008 album, The Hard Way, featured New Orleans legend Alan Toussaint as guest.