Big Jack Johnson played his juke joint style guitar music all over the world, but always remembered where home was. From Helena to Clarksdale he played the festivals and the clubs. Featured as a member of the Jelly Roll Kings or on his own as the Oil Man, he was a bluesman.
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Big Jack Johnson was born April 6, 1939 on Van Savage’s Plantation near Lambert, Mississippi. His parents were Ellis and Pearl Johnson. Like many artists, Jack got his inspiration to play from his family. Ellis Johnson, in addition to farm work, was a fiddle player who listened to country and blues music. After moving to Lyon in Coahoma County, young Jack began playing with several musicians, but became well known for his participation with the Jelly Roll Kings. In 1962 the group recorded with Sam Phillips in Memphis, Tennessee as Frank Frost with the Night Hawks. The trio later changed their name to the Jelly Roll Kings.
Big Jack recorded with Sam Carr and Frank Frost from 1962 though the 1990s. He was sometimes joined by his brother-in-law Little Jeno Tucker and nephew “Super Chikan” Johnson. He was nicknamed the “Oil Man” because he drove an oil truck until he was able to have a full time music career.
In addition to the Jelly Roll Kings, Johnson had his own band called B.J. and the Oilers. He traveled all across Europe and the world playing the delta blues. Johnson tried several business endeavors during his life, but always kept up with his music.
Big Jack Johnson passed away on March 14, 2011 and is buried at McLaurin Memorial Cemetery in Coahoma County, Mississippi.
Big Jack Johnson along with his Jelly Roll Kings members Sam Carr and Frank Frost are found on the Delta Blues Trail Memorial at Lula, Mississippi.
Big Jack Johnson – The Mississippi Blues Trail. http://www.msbluestrail.org
Big Jack Johnson – All about Blues Music. http://www.allaboutbluesmusic.com
Big Jack Johnson (1940-2011): Mississippi Folklife and Folk Artists Directory. arts.ms.gov