Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page
Jaybird Coleman was not one of the early blues heavyweights. Nevertheless he was an accomplished guitarist and harmonica player who belonged to a group of performers, many unknown, who made up the foundation of rural blues. Born Burl Coleman in Gainesville, Alabama, in 1896, to a family of sharecroppers, Coleman spent his early years working on the land whilst teaching himself harmonica and guitar. He began by busking at parties and picnics but this career was interrupted in 1917 by service in the American Army during the First World War when he picked up his Jaybird nickname. After he left the Army he moved to Birmingham, Alabama, where he worked the streets, brothels and juke joints. During the early 1920ís he often made guest appearances with the Birmingham Jug Band, and in fact they supported him on a few of the small number of recordings he made. The last of these was in 1930 after which Coleman went back to the Alabama street corners and bars where he spent most of his performing career. His performances tailed off during the 1940ís and Jaybird Coleman died in 1950 aged 53.