If, as we always say, there are many bluesmen about which little is known about their lifes, though fortunately there are, depending on the case, even many recordings, the case of Bo Weavil Jackson may be one that takes the biscuit, another case involved in legend. His life is an unsolved mystery. And the funny thing is that, listening to his recordings, we are faced of not only to one of the pioneers of country blues but to one of the greatest singers and guitarists in the style.
It is known neither when or where he was born, nor when and where he died. Some sources cite that presumably he was born in Birmingham, Alabama, information extracted from the fact that the musician mentioned that city in some of his lyrics.
It is believed that his name could be James Jackson; other sources suggest that his real name was Sam Butler, and others, James Butler, there are combinations for everyone. Sam Butler is the name that is being discussed most, as it seems he recorded under that name with the Vocalion label. While on the other hand, it is said that a record salesman, someone called Harry Charles, remembered seeing Bo Weavil Jackson roaming in the street, playing in exchange for some change, and answering to the name of James.
Who knows, maybe all these conjectures might respond simply to strategies and swindles from record labels to make money, since most of the old blues musicians, taking advantage of their poor living conditions, were offered some meal or a just a few bucks for their recordings, and then would come some benefits of which none of them would see a miserable coin.
It is also said that Charley Patton kept the fame of “Father of the Delta Blues” when it should have belong to Jackson, or at least having shared that title with him. After all, this would not be an isolated case if it were true, some are led to fame, even plagiarizing, and others with the same level or even more, died and fell into oblivion.
In any case, we can hear in his recordings (Paramount and Vocalion, Chicago, 1926) a virtuoso, who moved over the neck of his guitar with an ease and amazing speed, while his powerful voice sang about his life and the events of their environment, and who clearly laid the foundation, or one of those who laid the foundation, of the Delta Blues.
Here you are some examples.