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Papa Charlie Jackson (c.1885 1938) was an early American bluesman and songster. He played a hybrid guitar banjo and ukulele, his recording career beginning in 1924. Much of his life remains a mystery, but it is probable that he was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and died in Chicago, Illinois in 1938.

Papa Charlie JacksonCareer

Born Charles Alexander Jackson , he originally performed in minstrel and medicine shows. Jackson was playing all around Chicago in the early 1920s. He was noted for busking at the famous Chicago Maxwell Street Market. He soon recorded "Papa's Lawdy Lawdy Blues" and "Airy Man Blues", the first commercially successful, self-accompanied recordings, by a male singer of the blues. One of his following tracks, "Salty Dog Blues", became his most famous song. He soon began cutting records with Ida Cox, Hattie McDaniel and Ma Rainey.

The late 1920s saw Jackson reach the pinnacle of his career, recording "Papa Charlie and Blind Blake Talk About It" (a two-part song) with Blind Blake. A few more recordings followed before the 1930s, but then Jackson left Paramount Records and moved to Okeh Records, recording with Big Bill Broonzy.

His importance in the history of the blues has been lessened by several factors. His flair for unique and irreverent material, similar to that of Charley Patton, along with his fast upbeat tempo which made his records sell, did not fit into the traditional blues category. His records were of poor quality since about half of his 66 sides were recorded with an acoustic horn, not a microphone. The rest contained a lot of "hiss" since Paramount used inferior quality materials in their pressing of records. Also, his banjo was not viewed as a traditional blues instrument. However, no one has duplicated his unique performances.

Legacy

Another song Jackson wrote - "Shake That Thing" - was covered by Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions in 1964. "Loan Me Your Heart" appeared on The Wildparty Sheiks eponymous album in 2002.

In 1973 Jackson's song "Shake That Thing" was briefly featured in the Sanford and Son episode The Blind Mellow Jelly Collection. Fred, played by Redd Foxx can be seen dancing and singing to it at the beginning of the episode.