Jim Jackson - Blues Singer, guitarist (1884 - 1937)
“Jim Jackson’s Kansas City Blues,” was one of the biggest selling blues hits of the 1920’s, and made him quite the popular performer in this time frame. A colorful character known for his sparse accompaniment of guitar, and primordial vocal style, he was an important figure in the evolution of the blues.
Born circa 1884, in Hernando, Mississippi, a small town twenty miles south of Memphis, Jackson was raised on a farm. Jackson's father taught the youth to play the guitar, a skill he would use to earn a living. Local guitarist Frank Stokes was also an influential figure to young Jackson. Around 1905, Jackson gained employment as a singer, dancer, and musician in medicine shows. The medicine show was a time-honored American tradition that employed entertainers to draw a crowd to a tent or wagon where vendors hawked alcohol-based patent medicines. By 1912, Jackson was playing local dances, parties, and fish fries, often pairing with Gus Cannon of Cannon's Jug Stompers or fellow Hernando native Robert Wilkins.
Jackson began traveling with minstrel shows in 1915, performing with the Silas Green Minstrels, the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, and the Abbey Sutton show intermittently until 1930. Minstrel shows, which had been popular during the nineteenth century, featured dancers, musicians, magicians, and comedians all performing under a tent. Jackson was a favorite; his large stage presence, stentorian voice, and friendly demeanor drew substantial crowds whether from a stool, soapbox, or flatbed truck. Like Leadbelly, Jackson had command of hundreds of songs including blues, ballads, vaudeville numbers, and traditional tunes of the nineteenth century. He has been called the greatest repository of pre-blues songs among all recorded musicians.