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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Clarksdale in Coahoma County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)
 

Big Jack Johnson

 
 
Big Jack Johnson Marker (Front) image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, October 18, 2015
1. Big Jack Johnson Marker (Front)
Inscription.
Front
The Clarksdale area is famed for its many legendary blues artists who achieved their greatest success after moving away, such as Muddy Waters, Ike Turner, and John Lee Hooker. But there were world-renowned musicians who remained lifelong local residents, and foremost among these was Big Jack Johnson (1940-2011), one of the most creative guitarists and lyricists in the blues. When not on tour Johnson considered Red's Blues Club at this site his home base.

Rear
Big Jack Johnson, who was once heralded by noted music critic Robert Palmer as “possibly the most original bluesman alive,” took Delta blues in new directions with his electric, innovative instrumental forays and topical songs about AIDS, war, domestic violence, abortion, Hurricane Katrina, and the 1994 ice storm that paralyzed Clarksdale. His CD "Memphis Barbecue Sessions" won a W. C. Handy Award in 2003, and he earned several Living Blues Awards. Though modest about his guitar prowess and other achievements, Johnson liked to boast of his abilities as a bass player and fisherman. July 30, 1940, was the birthdate he officially used, but the actual date was 1939, as the census from April 6, 1940, shows him as the eight-month-old son of Ellis and Pearl Johnson on Van Savage's Plantation near Lambert. Ellis Johnson,
Big Jack Johnson Marker (Rear) image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, October 18, 2015
2. Big Jack Johnson Marker (Rear)
a fiddler, was Jack's earliest musical inspiration, along with music he heard on the radio–both country & western and blues. After moving to Lyon and then to Clarksdale, Johnson worked with Earnest Roy, Sr., C. V. Veal & the Shufflers, and Johnny Dugan & the Esquires, but was best known as a member of the iconic juke joint trio the Jelly Roll Kings with Frank Frost and Sam Carr. Johnson played and recorded with Frost and Carr off and on from 1962 through the 1990s, sometimes joined by his brother-in-law Little Jeno Tucker or his nephew James “Super Chikan” Johnson, who inherited the eclectic Johnson flair for creativity and energy in the blues. Nicknamed “the Oil Man,” Johnson drove a truck for Rutledge Oil Co. until he was able to leave the job and pursue music as a full-time career. He also did farm work and landscaping, and reports of his other exploits included boxing and bear wrestling.

For Johnsonís own band, B. J. & the Oilers, he recruited younger local musicians, including his protege Terry “Big T” Williams, but more often used Pennsylvania-based musicians and others when he toured the East Coast and across the country. His travels also took him to Europe, Canada, Australia and Japan. He appeared in the 1992 film "Deep Blues" and the locally produced 1991 video "Juke Joint Saturday Night" and recorded for the
Photos from rear of marker. image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, October 18, 2015
3. Photos from rear of marker.
Click on photo for closeup.
Earwig, M.C., Rooster Blues, and Fat Possum labels, concluding his career with some self-released CDs backed by the Cornlickers.

Johnson also went into the nightclub business with his wife Angenette at times, operating the Untouchables, Black Fox, and Possum Trot nightspots. In his final years he performed regularly here at Red's for his longtime friend Cornelius “Red” Paden. After Johnson died on March 14, 2011, a huge throng of friends, relatives and admirers filled the Pinnacle at Coahoma Community College for his funeral. He was buried at McLaurin Memorial Garden cemetery on Highway 61.
 
Erected 2014 by the Mississippi Blues Commission. (Marker Number 180.)
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Mississippi Blues Trail marker series.
 
Location. 34° 11.863′ N, 90° 34.447′ W. Marker is in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in Coahoma County. Marker is at the intersection of Sunflower Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard, on the left when traveling north on Sunflower Avenue. Click for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 398 Sunflower Avenue, Clarksdale MS 38614, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. First Baptist M.B. Church (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line);
Red's Blues Club (to right of marker) image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, October 18, 2015
4. Red's Blues Club (to right of marker)
(Former LaVene Music Center building)
The New World (about 600 feet away); Aaron Henry (approx. 0.2 miles away); Dr. Aaron Henry (approx. 0.2 miles away); Delta Blues Museum (approx. 0.2 miles away); Sunflower River Blues & Gospel Festival (approx. 0.2 miles away); Sam Cooke (approx. 0.2 miles away); Riverside Hotel (approx. 0.2 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Clarksdale.
 
Also see . . .
1. Mississippi Blues Project: A Visit to Red's Lounge (video). (Submitted on October 29, 2015, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)
2. Wikipedia article on Big Jack Johnson. (Submitted on October 29, 2015, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)
 
Categories. African AmericansArts, Letters, MusicEntertainment
 
Big Jack Johnson Marker (Rear) image. Click for more information.
© Cc BY-SA 3.0, 2009
5. Big Jack Johnson Marker (Rear)
Performing at the Chicago Blues Festival 2009 at the Petrillo Shell Theater, Grant Park, Chicago, IL,
Click for more information.
The view south on Sunflower Avenue. image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, October 18, 2015
6. The view south on Sunflower Avenue.
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 144 times since then and 3 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on , by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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