Jim Jackson was born in 1890 in Hernando, a small town in the Mississippi delta region twenty miles south of Memphis. His father was a sharecropper and as a youth Jackson worked on the farm, learning guitar from his father. When he was in his mid teens he began working in local medicine shows as a singer and dancer. Within a few years he was was playing at local juke joints, parties, and fish fries, often with Gus Cannon and contemporary Hernando resident Robert Wilkins. Eventually Jackson moved his base to Memphis where he periodically spent the 1920's working with travelling medicine shows such as the Silas Green Minstrels and the Rabbit Foot Minstrels.  Jackson was very popular with the crowds and he had a repertoire of hundreds of songs including blues, ballads, hokum and traditional folk tunes. He also spent time playing the clubs in Memphis, often in the company of Gus Cannon, Furry Lewis and Will Shade.

In 1927 he recorded his most well known song, 'Kansas City Blues', in Chicago for the Vocalion label. It was one of the most popular blues songs ever released and was possibly one of the first million-selling records. In 1928 Jackson recorded further titles for Vocalion and also recorded for Victor in 1929 in Memphis. Jackson’s enormous popularity even gained him an appearance in a film, one of the early "talkies", the 1929 film Hallelujah! with an all-black cast. In three years he recorded more than fifty songs but by the end of 1930 his popularity began to wane as music tastes changed and the Great Depression created a major slump in the record industry. He moved back to Hernando and spent a few years back with the medicine shows until failing health restricted his performances. He eventually died in Hernando in 1937, aged 47.

    Kansas City Blues Part 1 (excerpt)