For someone who has strong claims to be the first solo self-accompanied bluesman to record, in 1924, and was one of the earliest and most successful of the solo blues singer/instrumentalists, it is surprising that Papa Charlie Jackson has not achieved wider recognition. Little is known about his personal life, other than that he was probably born in New Orleans in 1885, christened Charlie Carter, and where it is presumed that he began performing pre-teens. He played a six-string banjo tuned like a guitar, and occasionally a ukulele or conventional guitar. As a teenager he performed in travelling medicine shows and with touring vaudeville companies and as a result developed his diverse repertoire of both bawdy and more romantic songs, ragtime and hokum. About 1920 Jackson moved to Chicago where he began earning a living by playing on street corners and at rent parties, and also moved on to the clubs. His style as a soloist was unique and it included rhythmic chord solos, single note plectrum runs and the finger picking styles of rural blues guitarists.

In 1924 he recorded his first solo sides for the Paramount label, "Papa's Lawdy Lawdy Blues" and "Airy Man Blues", and followed these shortly after with “Salty Dog Blues” and Salt Lake City Blues”. He also recorded duets the following year with Ida Cox, Ma Rainey and Lottie Kimbrough. It was common practice in the early part of the twentieth century for musicians to play and record as both solo blues acts and as ensemble players in the early jazz bands since the distinctions of musical “genres” did not exist as they do today. During the period of the 1920’s Jackson became a member of many of the hot groups of the time in and around Chicago. Significantly in 1926 Jackson played the banjo on “Salty Dog” and “Stockyard Strut” when it was recorded by ‘Freddie Keppard and his Jazz Cardinals’, and which also featured New Orleans stalwart Johnny Dodds on clarinet. Jackson also recorded with ‘Tiny Parham and his Musicians’ with whom he recorded between 1927 and 1930, the band featuring Punch Miller, Kid Ory and a young Milt Hinton. In 1929 Jackson recorded for Paramount with "Blind" Arthur Blake, but left the label the following year and didn’t record again until 1934, when he had a session with Okey that included his ex-pupil and friend Big Bill Broonzy. He didn’t record again and it is very likely that he died in Chicago around 1938 although the exact circumstances and detail have never been established.

    Papa's Lawdy Lawdy Blues