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Papa Charlie Jackson

Papa Charlie Jackson was the first bluesman to record, beginning in 1924 with the Paramount label, playing a hybrid banjo-guitar (six strings tuned like a guitar but with a banjo body that gave it a lighter resonance) and ukulele. And apart from his records and their recording dates, little else is known for sure about this pioneering blues performer, other than his probable city of birth, New Orleans; even his death in Chicago during 1938 is more probable than established fact.

Jackson spent his teen years as a singer/performer in minstrel and medicine shows, picking up a repertory of bawdy but entertaining songs that would serve him well for decades. He is known to have busked around Chicago in the early '20s, playing for tips on Maxwell Street, as well as the city's Westside clubs beginning in 1924. In August of that year, Jackson made his first record, "Papa's Lawdy Lawdy Blues" and "'Airy Man Blues," for a Paramount label. He followed this up a month later with "Salt Lake City Blues" and "Salty Dog Blues," which became one of his signature tunes; he later re-recorded this number as a member of Freddie Keppard's Jazz Cardinals, also for the Paramount label, a common practice in those days as the notion of contracts and exclusivity was almost unknown in blues recording. Jackson made his first duet records in 1925, "Mister Man, Parts 1 and 2," with singer Ida Cox, again for Paramount, and later cut duets with Ma Rainey and future Oscar-winning actress Hattie McDaniel.

He was already regarded as one of the Paramount label's more successful recording artists, and all but a handful of his recordings were done for Paramount over the next decade. Jackson had a wide diversity of material and voices in which he recorded: "Good Doing Papa Blues" and "Jungle Man Blues" presented Jackson as a ladies' man in playful settings; while "Ma and Pa Poorhouse Blues," cut in a duet with Ma Rainey, was a far more serious song, dealing with poverty and its attendant miseries. "Don't Break Down," by contrast, was a seductive love song with pop elements, while "Baby Please Loan Me Your Heart" -- with its exquisite banjo strumming -- is a sweetly romantic piece that could've come out of vaudeville. Whether he was strumming or finger-picking, his music was always of interest for its structure, content, and execution.

Jackson reached a musical peak of sorts in September of 1929 when he got to record with his longtime idol, Blind (Arthur) Blake, often known as the king of ragtime guitar during this period. "Papa Charlie and Blind Blake Talk About It" parts one and two are among the most unusual sides of the late '20s, containing elements of blues jam session, hokum recording, and ragtime, with enough humor to make it the 1920s rival of tracks such as Bo Diddley's "Say Man" as well. More is the pity that better sources haven't survived for both sides, but what is here is beyond price; there may not be a dozen guitar records in any genre that are more important or more fascinating.

Jackson switched to guitar on some of his late-'20s recordings, and occasionally played the ukulele as well, although he was back to using the five-string hybrid in 1934, when he cut his final sessions. For reasons that nobody has ever established, he parted company with Paramount after 1930, and never recorded for the label again, even though Paramount lasted another two years before going under amid the hardships of the Great Depression. His last sides for the label, "You Got That Wrong" and "Self Experience," were highly personal songs dealing with romance and an apparent brush with the law, after which he disappeared from recording for four years. Jackson continued performing, however, and he returned to the recording studio again in November of 1934 for sessions on the Okeh label, including three songs cut with his friend Big Bill Broonzy, which were never issued. Jackson was an important influence on Broonzy, who outlived his mentor by 20 years.

Papa Charlie Jackson remains a shadowy figure, considered a highly influential figure in the blues, though not quite a major blues figure, apart from the fact that he was the first male singer/guitarist who played the blues to get to record. His recordings are all eminently listenable, although most are not blues, but fall into such related areas as ragtime and hokum. ~ Bruce Eder
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Greatest Blues Of The 1920s

1. Baby Don't You Be So Mean

2. Lexington Kentucky Blues

3. Skoodle-Um-Skoo

4. Take Me Back Blues

5. Coal Man Blues

6. Baby Please Loan Me Your Heart

7. How Long Daddy, How Long

8. All I Want Is A Spoonful

9. Hot Papa Blues

10. Papa Do Do Blues

11. I'm Going Where The Chilly Winds Don't Blow

13. Salty Dog Blues

14. Mama Don't Allow It (And She Ain't Gonna Have It Here)

15. Coffe Pot Blues

16. Papa's Lawdy Lawdy Blues

17. Drop That Sack

18. Tain't What You Do But How You Do It

20. You Put It In, I'll Take It Out

21. Your Baby Ain't Sweet Like Mine

22. Maxwell Street Blues

23. Ash Tray Blues

24. Shake That Thing

25. Gay Cattin'

26. I'm Alabama Bound

27. I'm Tired Of Fooling Around With You

28. Airy Man Blues

29. I'm Looking For A Woman Who Knows How To Treat Me Right

30. Shave 'Em Dry

31. Ma And Pa Poorhouse Blues

32. Texas Blues

33. Let's Get Along

x

Track List: Papa Charlie Jackson Vol. 3 (1928 - 1934)

1. Good Doing Papa Blues

2. Ma And Pa Poorhouse Blues

3. Big Feeling Blues

4. Jungle Man Blues

5. Corn Liquor Blues

6. Don't Break Down On Me

7. Baby Please Loan Me Your Heart

8. Dentist Chair Blues - Part 1

9. Dentist Chair Blues - Part 2

10. Hot Papa Blues - No. 2

11. We Can't Buy It No More

12. Tailor Made Lover

13. Take Me Back Blues No. 2

14. Tain't What You Do But How You Do It

15. Forgotten Blues

16. Papa Do Do Blues

17. I'll Be Gone Babe

18. Papa Charlie And Blind Blake Talk About It - Part 1

19. Papa Charlie And Blind Blake Talk About It - Part 2

20. You Got That Wrong

21. Self Experience

22. Skoodle-Um-Skoo

23. If I Got What You Want

24. What's That Thing She's Skating

25. You Put It In, I'll Take It Out

x

Track List: Papa Charlie Jackson Vol. 2 (1926 - 1928)

1. Mumsy Mumsy Blues

2. Butter And Egg Man Blues

3. The Judge Cliff Davis Blues

4. Up The Way Bound (Take 1)

5. Up The Way Bound (Take 2)

6. Four Eleven Forty Four

7. Your Baby Ain't Sweet Like Mine

8. Bad Luck Woman Blues

9. Salty Dog (Take 2)

10. Gay Cattin'

11. Fat Mouth Blues

12. She Belongs To Me Blues

13. Coal Man Blues

14. Skoodle Um Skoo

15. Sheik Of Displaines Street

16. Look Out Papa Don't Tear Your Pants

17. Baby Don't You Be So Mean

18. Bright Eyes

19. Blue Monday Morning Blues

20. Long Gone Lost John

21. I'm Looking For A Woman Who Knows How To Treat Me Right

22. Ash Tray Blues

23. No Need Of Knockin' On The Blind

24. I Like To Love My Baby

25. Baby - Papa Needs His Lovin'

26. Lexington Kentucky Blues

x

Track List: Papa Charlie Jackson Complete Recorded Works In Chronological Order Vol. 1 (1924 - 1926)

1. Papa's Lawdy Lawdy Blues

2. Airy Man Blues

3. Salt Lake City Blues (Take 2)

4. Salty Dog Blues (Take 2)

5. The Cats Got The Measles

6. I Got What It Takes But It Breaks My Heart To Give It Away (Take 2)

7. Shave 'Em Dry (Take 2)

8. Coffee Pot Blues (Take 1)

11. Shake That Thing (Take 2)

12. The Faking Blues (Take 2)

13. I'm Alabama Bound

14. Drop That Sack

15. Hot Papa Blues (Take 2)

16. Take Me Back Blues

17. Mama Don't Allow It (And She Ain't Gonna Have It Here)

18. Mama, Don't You Think I Know?

19. How Long Daddy, How Long

20. Maxwell Street Blues

21. All I Want Is A Spoonful

22. I'm Going Where The Chilly Winds Don't Blow (Take 2)

23. Texas Blues (Take 1)

24. Texas Blues (Take 2)

25. I'm Tired Of Fooling Around With You

26. Jackson's Blues

27. Let's Get Along

x

Track List: The Complete Recorded Works 1924-1934

Disc 1

1. Tailor Made Lover

2. Shave 'Em Dry

3. If I Got What You Want

4. The Judge Cliff Davis Blues

5. Papa's Lawdy Lawdy Blues

6. Take Me Back Blues

7. Take Me Back Blues No. 2

9. Mister Man - Part 2

10. Coffe Pot Blues

11. Drop That Sack

12. Papa Do Do Blues

13. Texas Blues

14. Airy Man Blues

15. I'll Be Gone Babe

16. I Like To Love My Baby

17. Skoodle Um Skoo

18. Ma And Pa Poorhouse Blues

19. Don't Break Down On Me

20. Bright Eyes

21. Tain't What You Do But How You Do It

22. Skoodle-Um-Skoo

23. Mama Don't Allow It (And She Ain't Gonna Have It Here)

24. Look Out Papa Don't Tear Your Pants

25. Shake That Thing

26. Jungle Man Blues

27. I'm Tired Of Fooling Around With You

28. Maxwell Street Blues

29. Coal Man Blues

30. Up The Way Bound (Take I)

31. Up The Way Bound (Take II)

32. Blue Monday Morning Blues

33. Salty Dog (Take II, W/ Freddie Keppard's Jazz Cardinals)

34. Sheik Of Displaines Street

35. Let's Get Along

36. Your Baby Ain't Sweet Like Mine

37. The Faking Blues

38. Mama Don't You Think I Know?

39. She Belongs To Me Blues

Disc 2

1. Ash Tray Blues

2. I'm Going Where The Chilly Winds Don't Blow

3. We Can't Buy It No More

4. Four Eleven Forty Four

5. Dentist Chair Blues - Part 1

6. Dentist Chair Blues - Part 2

7. Baby - Papa Needs His Lovin'

8. All I Want Is A Spoonful

9. Baby Please Loan Me Your Heart

10. You Put It In, I'll Take It Out

11. You Got That Wrong

12. No Need Of Knockin' On The Blind

13. Butter And Egg Man Blues

14. Baby Don't You Be So Mean

15. I'm Looking For A Woman Who Knows How To Treat Me Right

16. Lexington Kentucky Blues

17. I Got What It Takes But It Breaks My Heart To Give It Away

18. Corn Liquor Blues

19. Self Experience

20. Good Doing Papa Blues

23. Forgotten Blues

24. Gay Cattin'

25. I'm Alabama Bound

26. Salt Lake City Blues

27. How Long Daddy, How Long

28. The Cat's Got The Measles

29. Hot Papa Blues

30. Hot Papa Blues - No. 2

31. What's That Thing She's Skating

32. Fat Mouth Blues

33. Jackson Blues

34. Mumsy Mumsy Blues

35. Bad Luck Woman Blues

36. Salty Dog Blues

37. Long Gone Lost John

38. Texas Blues (Alternate Take)

39. Big Feeling Blues

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