Big Jack Johnson
Born: July 30, 1940, Lambert, Mississippi
Died: March 14, 2011
Photo credit: Bill Steber – www.steberphoto.com
One commentator noted that Johnson, with R.L. Burnside, Paul “Wine” Jones, Roosevelt “Booba” Barns, and James “Super Chikan” Johnson, were “present-day exponents of an edgier, electrified version of the raw, uncut Delta blues sound.” His father was a country and blues musician. Johnson started playing with him, but in his teens shifted to an electric guitar. In 1962 Big Jack teamed up with Frank Frost and Sam Carr and formed what most blues fans think of as the perfect Blues trio. They were Frank Frost and the Nighthawks then Little Sam Carr and The Blues Kings, finally in 1978 after a lengthy breakup they became the Jelly Roll Kings. Johnson’s first recordings as a vocalist appeared on the 1979 album Rockin’ the Juke Joint Down, on Earwig Music. With Frost as the band leader, they performed and recorded together for 15 years. Unlike many Bluesmen, Big Jack stayed in the Delta and continued to make his home in the same place he started out in. Tours took him to Japan, Germany, Holland, and many other European countries. He was also in regular demand at the festivals that have sprung up all over the US. Big Jack was named “Best Live Performer” in The Living Blues Magazine Critic’s Poll and his song We gotta Stop This Killin’ was voted best song of the year. Johnson’s album for Earwig, The Oil Man (1987), includes “Catfish Blues.” He performed “Catfish Medley” with Samuel L. Jackson on the Black Snake Moan film soundtrack.