JIMMY DLUDLU was 13 years old when he first picked up a cousin's home made guitar and started teaching himself to play by imitating the jazz and African music he heard on the radio.
His first performances were at township weddings and functions with his cousin. His career took off in earnest in the mid-1980's, when he worked with various southern African bands including Impandze from Swaziland, featuring Jamaican singer Trevor Hall, Kalahari and Satari from Botswana, as well as Anansi, featuring the Ghanaian saxophonist George Lee. A highlight of this period was his performance with Anansi at the Botswana Independence celebrations in 1986, alongside a range of African stars including Thomas Mapfumo.
In Johannesburg in 1990, Jimmy worked as a session musician. He worked with McCoy Mrubata and his band Brotherhood, which a year later won the Gilbey's Music of Africa Competition. In September 1990, he also took part in the Market Theatre production Conversations with Canadian Bruce Cassidy on Trumpet and EVI, and South African Barney Rachabane on sax.
In 1991, he was a founder member of the highly successful group Loading Zone, which went on to tour across the continent, backing a range of South African stars including Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Brenda Fassie, Chicco and Sipho Mabuse. During this period, Jimmy also recorded with Miriam Makeba on the album "Eyes on Tomorrow", and participated in the Sun City production Sax Appeal, appearing with the likes of Rene McLean, Winston Mankunku, Robbie Jansen, Victor Ntoni and the late Duke Makasi.
A highlight of this period was Loading Zone's Namibian tour in 1992, when they were spotted by Zairean world-music star Papa Wemba, who subsequently asked the band to back him on several dates in Namibia