Sadly we have to say farewell to bluesman John Jackson who passed away at his home in Virginia on the 20th of January. He was one of the last remaining country bluesmen of the East Coast Piedmont style which encompassed blues, ragtime, folk, old-time hillbilly and ballads, all in the unique finger picking style.



Born in Rappahanock County, Virginia on 25th February 1924, the seventh son of fourteen children to a musical family, his parents being musicians as well as farmers, playing house parties at weekends. John first picked up his father’s guitar when he was just four years old. By the time he was eight he was already good enough to join his parents at parties.


A second hand Victrola was brought into the family home and his tender young ears began to pick up the sounds of the blues’ greats; Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Boy Fuller and the father of country music, the legendary Jimmie Rodgers. The impoverished life of the family forced John to quit school whilst still a child to work on the farm, continuing to play in his spare time throughout the remainder of the thirties and forties.


He moved to Fairfax County, Virginia in 1950 with his wife and children to work on a dairy farm. Chuck Perdue, the president of the Folklore Society of Greater Washington, found John playing for small change at a gas station, realising immediately that he had stumbled upon a true original. Within weeks Jackson was playing at coffee houses around the Washington DC area. He recorded his first album for Arhoolie Records in 1965 – “Blues And Country Dance Tunes”. “John Jackson” volumes 1 and 2 in 1966 and 1968 respectively followed this, by which time he was in demand for concert tours across the United States and Europe.


The years that followed would see him touring Africa, India and South America, cutting albums for both Arhoolie and Rounder during the seventies. The National Endowment for the Arts awarded John their National Heritage Fellowship in 1986. 1999 saw the release of “Front Porch Blues” on Alligator Records, which received three W C Handy Blues Award nominations including Acoustic Blues Album of the year. During the period of Jimmy Carter’s presidency he played at the Labour Day Picnic at the White House.


Keith Woods