The time has come to pay tribute to one of the greatest and most prolific “songster” musicians to record, as well as one of my own personal favorites: the incomparable Papa Charlie Jackson.
“Papa” Charlie Jackson was born in New Orleans, purportedly on November 10, 1887 and by the name William Henry Jackson. The Paramount Book of Blues described his character as “witty—cheerful—kind hearted,” and armed with a commanding voice and banjo-playing skills to match, he started out playing in tent shows and vaudeville, eventually winding up in Chicago. Rather than the more common guitar or five-string banjo, Jackson opted for the somewhat unconventional six-string banjo-guitar, though he occasionally switched to a standard acoustic guitar. In Chicago, Jackson performed at various local establishments and busked on Maxwell Street. Signed to Paramount Records in the summer of 1924, Jackson became the first male blues artist on the label’s roster—as well as one of the earliest male blues artists to record for anybody—and quickly one of its most successful regardless of sex. In addition to his solo records, Jackson recorded in duet with Ida Cox, Ma Rainey, Blind Blake, and Hattie McDaniel on separate occasions, and provided banjo and vocals for jazz bands such as Freddie Keppard’s Jazz Cardinals and Tiny Parham’s “Forty” Five. A few of his songs, notably “Shake that Thing” and “Salty Dog”, achieved huge success. From 1924 until 1930, Jackson recorded around seventy hokum, blues, and folk songs for Paramount, not counting those where he was an accompanist or instrumentalist. Well into the Great Depression and after four years of recording silence, Jackson concluded his recording career with two sessions for Okeh in 1934 yielding two records, followed by one unconfirmed 1935 session for Bluebird backing Big Bill Broonzy. Falling thereafter into a period of total obscurity, Charlie Jackson died in Chicago on May 7, 1938.
Paramount 12296 was recorded around August of 1925 in Chicago, Illinois by Charlie Jackson, singing with accompaniment by his own banjo-guitar.
First up, Papa Charlie sings a little hokum on the classic “Mama Don’t Allow It (And She Ain’t Gonna Have it Here)”, a variant of the timeless “Mama Don’t Allow”, usually attributed to Cow Cow Davenport. Here the composer is credited as William Henry Jackson.
Next, Jackson sings his own “Take Me Back Blues”, one of his many compositions. Evidently a popular number, he later followed this tune up with “Take Me Back Blues No. 2” in 1929, issued on Paramount 12797, that time on an ordinary acoustic guitar and with considerably less energy.