JIM JACKSON BIOGRAPHY
Jim Jackson (c.1884 – 1937) was an African American blues and hokum singer, songster and guitarist, whose recordings in the late 1920s were popular and influential on later artists.
Jackson was born in Hernando, Mississippi, and was raised on a farm, where he learned to play guitar. Around 1905 he started working as a singer, dancer, and musician in medicine shows, playing dances and parties often with other local musicians such as Gus Cannon, Frank Stokes and Robert Wilkins. He soon began travelling with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, featuring Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, and other minstrel shows.
He also played clubs on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. His popularity and proficiency secured him a residency at Memphis’s prestigious Peabody Hotel in 1919. Like Leadbelly, Jackson knew hundreds of songs including blues, ballads, vaudeville numbers, and traditional tunes, and became a popular attraction.
In 1927, talent scout H. C. Speir signed him to a recording contract with Vocalion Records. On October 10 1927, he recorded “Jim Jackson’s Kansas City Blues”, which became a best-seller, and in the melody and lyrics of which can be traced the outline of many later blues and rock and roll songs, including “Rock Around The Clock” and “Kansas City”. Following his hit Jackson recorded a series of ‘Kansas City’ follow-ups and soundalikes. He moved to Memphis in 1928, and made a series of further recordings, including the comic medicine show song “I Heard the Voice of a Pork Chop”. He also appeared in King Vidor’s all-black, 1929 film, Hallelujah!.
Jackson ran the Red Rose Minstrels, a travelling medicine show which toured Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama. As a talent scout for Brunswick Records, he discovered Rufus “Speckled Red” Perryman, gaining him his first recording session. Shortly afterwards, in February 1930, Jackson recorded his own last session. He later moved back to Hernando, and continued to perform until his death in 1937.
Janis Joplin later recorded a version of “Kansas City Blues”, inserting the lines “Babe, I’m leavin’, yeah I’m a-leavin’ this mornin’ / Goin’ to Kansas City to bring Jim Jackson home”.
Jackson was a major influence on the Chicago bluesman J. B. Lenoir, and his “Kansas City Blues” was a regular fixture of Robert Nighthawk’s concert set list.
The song “Wild About My Lovin'” was covered by The Lovin’ Spoonful and released on their first “best of” album in 1967.