On of the great blues songsters of yesteryear was Jim Jackson. With a strong voice and a wide repertoire ranging from blues to popular songs to hokum, he one of the most prominent blues figures of his day.
Jim Jackson was born on a farm in Hernando, Mississippi, twenty miles south of Memphis, most likely in June of 1876, though 1884 and 1890 have also been ventured as possible years. Sometime around 1905, Jackson began playing, singing, and dancing in medicine shows around the South. He was later a member of the famed Rabbit Foot Minstrels, and ran the Red Rose Minstrels himself. By the 1910s, Jackson worked primarily on Memphis, Tenessee, like contemporary Frank Stokes. His success on Beale Street was enough that he was reportedly residing in the luxurious Peabody Hotel by 1919. In 1927, store owner and talent broker H.C. Speir secured a contract for Jackson with Vocalion records. He made his recording debut on October 10, 1927, recording the first two parts of his “Kansas City Blues” series, which were issued as his first record. In addition to recording for Vocalion, Jackson also worked as a talent scout for the company, notably “discovering” boogie woogie piano man Speckled Red (Rufus Perryman). As one of Vocalions most popular race artists, the company released a “descriptive novelty” record titled “Jim Jackson’s Jamboree” featuring Tampa Red and Georgia Tom and Speckled Red, and “hosted” by Jackson. Jackson continued to record for Vocalion until 1930, and held several sessions for Victor in 1928. He supposedly played a bit part in King Vidor’s 1929 film Hallelujah, though it’s unknown what role he played, and indeed if he appeared in the film at all. Jackson’s last session was held in February of 1930, after which he returned to his home in Mississippi, where he continued to perform. Jim Jackson died on December 18, 1933.
Vocalion 1144 was recorded in Chicago on October 10, 1927. Jackson’s “Kansas City Blues” songs were among the most successful and influential blues records of their time, inspiring numerous covers by contemporaries like William Harris and Charley Patton, and latter day artists like Janis Joplin. Some have cited it as one of the first rock ‘n’ roll records, though the musical style bears only a passing resemblance.
First, Jackson sings the first of his four part series, “Jim Jackson’s Kansas City Blues–Part 1″.
He concludes the disc with “Jim Jackson’s Kansas City Blues–Part 2″. This is the second take of this side (“34” in the runoff), which may be more scarce than the more commonly heard first take.