Papa Charlie Jackson: Pioneer

Papa Charlie Jackson (William Henry Jackson, 1887-1938) was an influential and unique crossover figure in both early hot jazz and blues, making music that incorporated elements of ragtime, and he was also a pioneer of the comedy style known as “hokum”.  Jackson is considered the first self accompanied blues musician to make recordings (1924), and is associated with (possibly the writer of) tunes that have become blues standards such as “Spoonful”, and “Salty Dog”.

And yet Jackson is outside the Delta blues tradition and didn’t begin his life on a cotton farm as so many country blues artists did. He was more of an urban figure. He hailed from New Orleans, performed with minstrel shows and medicine shows and was part of the Chicago music scene from the early 1920s. As pictured above, he played a six-string banjo/ guitar, as well as ordinary guitar and ukulele. He recorded 66 sides in his career, often with such major collaborators as Blind Blake, Ma Rainey, Ida Cox, Hattie McDaniel, and Big Bill Broonzy. His last recordings were made in 1934.