He recorded some of the earliest country blues in 1926 for both Paramount and Vocalion. His 78 rpm records are highly sought after by collectors, and have actually been re-released several times. Of course to a researcher, there are several nuts to crack like this. A dark, shadowy figure that emerges from the darkness to record a few sides, then – poof – pulls a Kieser Sose and vanishes. Tracking people down like that is more than hard – it is damn near impossible.
In these times, interviews are scarce, and the documents are simply gone. Of course, there is also room for theories. First of all, there are several names for Bo-Weavil Jackson. Some say his real name was James Jackson. Others say Sam Butler.
Still more insist it was James Butler. A record salesman by the name Harry Charles remembers Bo-Weavil as basically being a bum on the street, playing for change when he recorded his sessions in Chicago in 1926. However, when Bo-Weavil cut sides for Vocalion, he used the name “Sam Butler”. Also, as more compelling evidence, some of his most entertaining and original songs are copyrighted to a Sam Butler.
Paramount never got it right anyway – they always promoted Bo-Weavil as coming from the Carolinas, but in fact, most believe he was born, raised, and discovered just outside Birmingham. Not to mention some of his lyrics reference the area of Birmingham. But wait, there is more. Could Bo-Weavil Jackson be the father of the blues? Did he record before Patton? Could he have influenced Patton? It could be all of it. Patton’s unique singing style is actually shared by only one man – Bo-Weavil Jackson. They both offer the unique timing, the gritty delivery, and the raw punch to their singing.
It turns out both Patton and Bo-Weavil were old fashion, and might have been neighbors, playing in familiar spots. Bo-Weavil sang about the Sunflower River, and also about Glendora. But it does turn out that Bo-Weavil recorded before Patton, and might have been the first race recording artist – or Delta Bluesman – to record. It was Bo-Weavil’s timbre of his voice, others would say, that did not represent the Delta properly.
Therefore, Patton gets the crown – and the credit – as being the Father of the Blues. However, more than likely, these two crossed paths. I mean, did we honestly think Patton was was the only one doing what he did at the time? In “Some Scream High Yellow”, Jackson sings about the rollin’ mill burning down. In “High Water Everywhere”, Patton sings about the Clarksdale Mill burning down.
Both songs point out the importance of their mill jobs to women. However, it is still believed that Jackson was form the Birmingham area, and traveled the Delta regularly. There is more evidence in the recordings of both men that they played in – or at least sang about – similar locations, towns, and places. Needless to say, most research points out he was discovered playing in the streets of Birmingham. If his playing is an example of what was being played on the streets for spare change back in the day, the situation has obviously worsened.
Jackson was a unique, down-home country bluesman whose hands moved over the fingerboard at lightning speed. His slower blues – at least the sound he generated with his slower blues – can be heard in the acoustic recordings of Jimi Hendrix. He certainly was influential – however, he certainly doesn’t get the credit Patton dies, except by purely deep blues fans. The question remains, though – was his real name Sam Butler? Currently we are researching the possibility, and will post later on our findings. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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