The first Rock & Roll!
Jackson was born in Hernando, Mississippi 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.
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 Lead to other artists covering and reworking the song, including Charlie Patton, who changed it to "Gonna Move To Alabama". He 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 film, Hallelujah!.
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.
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