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, United States, 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
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. It
also led to other artists covering and reworking the song, including
Charlie Patton, who changed it to "Gonna
Move To Alabama". Jackson 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
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
The song "Wild About My Lovin'" was covered by The Lovin' Spoonful and
released on their 1967 album, The Best of The Lovin' Spoonful.