For more information, contact
Michael Frank, CEO
Click here to go to Earwig Music Company
Big Jack was born July 30, 1940 and died March 14, 2011
Rest in Peace
-Written by Bill Dahl
Contemporary Mississippi blues doesn’t get any nastier than in Big Jack Johnson’s
capable hands. The ex-oil truck driver’s axe cuts like a rusty machete, his rough-hewn vocals a siren call to Delta passion. But he’s a surprisingly versatile songwriter; Daddy, When Is Mama Comin Home?
, his ambitious 1990 set for Earwig, found him tackling issues as varied as AIDS, wife abuse, and Chinese blues musicians in front of slick, horn-leavened arrangements!
Big Jack Johnson was a chip off the old block musically. His dad was a local musician playing both blues and country ditties at local functions; by the time he was 13 years old, Johnson was sitting in on guitar with his dad’s band. At age 18, Johnson was following B.B. King’s electrified lead. His big break came when he sat in with bluesmen Frank Frost and Sam Carr at the Savoy Theatre in Clarksdale. The symmetry between the trio was such that they were seldom apart for the next 15 years, recording for Phillips International and Jewel with Frost, the bandleader.
Chicago blues aficionado Michael Frank was so mesmerized by the trio’s intensity when he heard them playing in 1975 at Johnson’s Mississippi bar, the Black Fox, that Michael Frank eventually formed Earwig just to capture their steamy repertoire. That album, Rockin’ the Juke Joint Down
, came out in 1979 (as by the Jelly Roll Kings
) and marked Johnson’s first recordings as a singer.
-Producer's Notes by Michael Frank, Earwig CEO
In 1989 on a brutally cold February night in Madison, Wisconsin Earwig recorded Big Jack with Jack’s five piece band from Clarksdale, augmented by his past band mates Frank Frost, Sam Carr and “Little Geno” Tucker. That album, which was supposed to be Daddy When Is Mama Comin' Home? was not released due to the band being unfamiliar with Jack’s original tunes, and their poor playing, out of tune and out of synch with Jack. Those tunes were rerecorded in Chicago later that year with a crack band of Chicago session players for what became the 1990 album Daddy, When Is Mama Comin Home? Not until Jack came back to Chicago to play with the Aron Burton Blues Band in 1994 and 1995 was Earwig finally able to capture Jack live at his full power, doing his mix of blues classics and his own contemporary Delta blues storytelling.
Big Jack Johnson - vocals and lead guitar
The Aron Burton Band - with Aron Burton, bass and band leader
Allen Batts - piano
Michael Dotson - rhythm guitar
Kenny Smith - drums on Legends tracks
Tino Cortez - drums on Hothouse tracks
Special Guest Lester “Mad Dog” Davenport - harmonica on Legends tracks
Produced by Michael Robert Frank
© P 1997 Earwig Music Company, Inc.
Songs 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 11 recorded live March 4, 1995 at Buddy Guy’s Legends, Chicago, Illinois
Timothy Powell - Metro Mobile, lead engineer, Paul Smith - Acme Studios, 2nd engineer
Songs 2, 4, 6, 9, 10, 12 recorded live June 4, 1994 at the Hothouse, Chicago, Illinois, Todd Coburn - engineer
Mixed, edited, and mastered by Paul Smith, Acme Recording
Thanks to Andre Hobus for the front cover photo
Graphic design by Terran Doehrer, Earth Star Graphics, Evanston, Illinois
Track Listing -
1.Pistol Packin Mama 6:14
2.Since I Met You Baby 6:10
3.Night Train 5:13
4.Ain't Nothin' You Can Do 3:53
5.Daddy, When Is Mama Comin Home? 7:22
7.Sweet Sixteen 6:09
8.Fightin' Woman 5:53
9.Steal Away 5:13
10.The Blues Is Alright 4:25
11.Black Rooster 6:51
12.I Got A Whole Lotta Lovin' 4:16
Writers and publishers by track:
1 Big Jack Johnson, Drop Top Music
2 Ivory Joe Hunter, Unichappell Music, Inc.
3 Jimmy Forrest, Oscar Washington, Simpkins, Embassy Music Corp.
4 Deadric Malone & Joseph Wade Scott, MCA/Duchess Music Corp.
5 Big Jack Johnson, Earwig Music, administered by BMG Music
6 Hank Ballard, Trio Fort Knox Music
7 Ahmet Ertegun, Unichappell Music, Inc.
8 Big Jack Johnson, Drop Top Music
9 John Green & Joseph Scott, MCA/Duchess Music Corp.
10 Milton Campbell, Trice Publishing Co, Inc.
11 Big Jack Johnson, Fiorina Music
12 Riley B. King, Sounds of Lucille
Guitarist and vocalist Jack Johnson recorded five CDs for Earwig Music between 1979 and 1995: CD 4901, The Jelly Roll Kings' Rockin' The Juke Joint Down; CD 4914, Frank Frost's Midnight Prowler; and three as the featured artist -- CD 4901, The Oil Man; CD 4916, Daddy When Is Mama Comin Home? and CD 4939, Live In Chicago
“A major blues talent, guitarist/vocalist, Johnson delivers topical material with knock-out force and man-woman songs with a hard poignancy.” -American Visions
“(Big Jack Johnson’s) vocals are raw, and he plays raunchy, thunderous guitar…” -Seattle Rocket
“You’re listening to real blues played by a real blues man. It doesn’t get any better than this.” -Music Paper
Johnson’s 1987 album for Earwig, The Oil Man
, still ranks as his most intense and moving, sporting a hair-raising rendition of “Catfish Blues.”