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Smithsonian Institution
Southern FusionAmericans Old and NewMidwestern CrossroadsSouthern FusionLouisiana, Where Music is King
Jack Johnson

While other musicians headed north in search of blues stardom, Jack Johnson stayed down in the Delta, and his music has a raw, country feel that city bands somehow can never capture. His father was a fiddler, and Johnson grew up in the old, acoustic tradition. He can still kick back and play early Delta classics like "Catfish," the acoustic guitar echoing his earthy, knowing vocals.
       Johnson made his name, though, as a member of the Jelly Roll Kings. The Kings, a trio filled out by harmonica and keyboard man Frank Frost and drummer Sam Carr, were famous as the hottest band in the Delta, rocking the juke joints and keeping up the area's reputation as the heartland of blues. Over the years, they drifted apart, and Johnson hit the road as a soloist, but they still get together once and a while when the gig is right. River of Song filmed the original Jelly Roll Kings in a classic juke in Bobo, Mississippi--a crossroads outside of Clarksdale--where the grocery store pushes aside the shelves on Saturday night to make room for a cramped and sweating crowd of dancers.
       As Carr and Frost hold down a grinding, boiling beat, Johnson plays electric slide with the dirty, greasy feel of Elmore James and shouts verses that sound as old as the land, telling stories about roosters that creep into the wrong henhouse and lovers walking away down long, lonesome roads. The dancers rock and roll in the erotic motions that gave a later music its name, and the Delta lives up to its mythic reputation.

Related Links

        More info on Jack's recordings

       "Musical ties to the man upstairs" from Soul of the Blues


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