Legendary Mississippi Bluesman Big Jack Johnson Passes Away

2019 Harpdog Brown A 728×90
Big Jack Johnson
Big Jack Johnson in 2000. Photo courtesy of Robert Corwin

(M.C. Records) With the heaviest of hearts M.C. Records announces the passing of legendary Mississippi Blues Man Big Jack Johnson. Jack died this morning in a Memphis hospital. He was 70. Our condolences go out to his wife, Annette, and their many children and grand-children. Also, to all the people who loved Big Jack.

To help with expenses, M.C. Records is donating all purchases of Big Jack CDs to his family. You can listen to samples of music, see a selection of recordings and make purchases right here.

Big Jack was the last surviving member of the influential band The Jelly Roll Kings which included Sam Carr and Frank Frost. Big Jack appeared in the influential 1992 documentary movie “Deep Blues,” as well as on CNN’s “World Beat,” PBS’s “The River of Song” and in National Geographic magazine. He has graced the covers of Living BluesReal Blues and Blues Speak. See a full biography on Big Jack here.

The death of Big Jack Johnson is a sad and personal loss to me. It was after seeing Big Jack in Westchester NY that my wife and I decided to formally start M.C. Records. Catherine recalls it very well, “I just remember the first time I saw him when we went up to Westchester. How electrifying he was.  So powerful and raw, but in a good way.  Then when we worked with him to see how shy, in a way, he was and his oddball sense of humor – hokey, but I loved it.” That was Jack. Generous, warm, funny, a great family man and played blues as intensely as you would ever witness. I will truly miss him.

From left to right - Wild Child Butler, Mark Carpentieri, Big Jack, 1999
From left to right - Wild Child Butler, Mark Carpentieri, Big Jack, 1999

Between 1996-2002, we would release four recordings by Big Jack. The Oilman started the label in a national and international direction in 1996. He also would get us our first W.C. Handy, AFIM and NAIRD Award nominations. During most of those years, Jack worked tirelessly sometimes over 300 gigs per year. By 2005 his touring slowed down considerably and he spent most of his time with the family he loved so much. When we stopped working together, I would call him to see how he was doing. Usually his wife Annette would answer the phone and get Jack who was usually doing something with one of his kids or Grandchildren. I would ask him how he was doing, he would usually say the same thing, “fishing, enjoying my family, playing once in awhile.” That was the perfect balance for Jack. Hopefully you got to see Jack play because they don’t make him like that anymore.

Finally, here’s a great YouTube clip of Big Jack doing “Catfish Blues.”

“When the Lord Calls you, you got to go.”

– “So Long Frank Frost”, Big Jack Johnson