Big Jack Johnson "The Oil Man"
Bob Corritore Blues Newsletter
March 14, 2011 - Sad news came in from
Dave Riley and Amy Brat that legendary Mississippi guitarist/mandolinist/vocalist
Big Jack Johnson has passed away this morning at 6am in his
hometown of Clarksdale, Mississippi after a long battle with
heath issues. He was 70 years old. Note that there were some
disturbing premature false announcements of Big Jack's passing
3 days before his actual passing.
Collage Courtesy of Panny Mayfield
Big Jack's inventive, energetic, Delta-rooted
guitar, rich confident vocals, down home songwriting, and larger
than life stage presence made him one of the most celebrated
bluesmen of Mississippi. His long music career included much
national and international touring, many amazing record releases,
and a huge amount of praise and respect. Big Jack was born in
Lambert, Mississippi in the summer of 1940, and learned guitar
from his father at age 13.
He rose to prominence in the early 1960s
working as a key member of the legendary Jelly Roll Kings, a
champion blues band which also included Frank Frost and Sam
Carr. Big Jack first appeared on record in the 1960s as the
guitarist on two famous Frank Frost albums; Hey Boss Man
on the Phillips International label (an offshoot of Sun Records)
from 1962, and My Back Scratcher on Jewel from 1966.
In the late 1970s, Michael Frank debuted
his Earwig Music label with The Jelly Roll Kings / Rockin'
The Juke Joint Down which also was a recording debut for
Big Jack's great vocals. Soon afterward, Big Jack Johnson would
start a solo career for himself, independent of the Jelly Roll
His solo debut album, Oil Man
(Big Jack used to hold down a day gig delivering oil barrels
in Mississippi) on the Earwig label was released in 1987. This
led to additional CDs for Earwig, a nice run with M.C. Records,
and additional recordings for Rooster Blues, P-Vine Records,
Right Coast Recording, and Big Jack Music. There was also a
nice Jelly Roll Kings reunion album called Off Yonder Wall
that came out in 1997 on the Fat Possum Records. Additionally,
Big Jack appeared in the influential 1992 documentary movie
He was a popular festival and club entertainer,
a warm and hospitable person, and an amazing musician. Big Jack
Johnson was the last original member of the Jelly Roll Kings.
His passing leaves a gap in the blues
that will never again be filled. To see his amazing performance
of "Catfish Blues" from the movie Deep Blues,
Thanks for all the great music Big Jack.
You are loved!
Read more about Big
Jack Johnson through his online biography.