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Papa Charlie Jackson complete recordings

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Thanks folks, I constantly referred back to the weenie page for positions, keys and lyrics so thank you so much for putting up this excellent resource.
I did it to show my love and admiration for PCJs music. It wasn't as gargantuan a task as it would seem. I played a lot of his songs already, mostly the flat-picked ones and having been obsessively listening for years I knew what the other songs sounded like. The hardest things were playing those fast flat picking passages he does on things like "Sheik Of Desplaine Street" also remembering lyrics proved tricky as well as capturing the spirit of the recordings, which was really my biggest aim. Also Papa Charlie Jackson has a rather deep resonant voice which goes REALLY low in some places. I do not have a very deep voice at all, so I found that to be challenging but I wanted to try and copy the recordings and play them in the same register and keys as they were.

Papa Charlie Jackson, used a wide range of positions (wider than most players with things like Eb and Bb) he has some quirky moves and phrases that he plays a lot in those positions which confirms quite clearly what position he's playing in. I find this kind of analysis of a players style really fascinating and have gleaned quite a bit of analysis from this task.

Firstly he wasn't one for playing much whilst he was singing (obvious exception being "Bright Eyes") moreover he maintained the sound of a chord either by strumming, picking or doing an almost flamenco swish which you hear throughout his music and something I didn't bother to try because I was using finger picks. I believe he used bare fingers it makes it much easier, sounds almost like a ukulele style strumming technique.

Onto the positions:

C position: When finger picking in C, PCJ likes to use the descending pattern of G,F#,F on the first string you'll hear this on things like "Long Gone, Lost John" "Mama, Don't You Think I Know"' and "All I Want Is A Spoonful"

When flat picking in C, PCJ always plays his diminished chord as an Ab major chord, playing the D, G and B at the first fret

D Position: This seems to PCJ's speciality and I think this is his most distinct sounding, He only ever dropped his D string down for "Up The Way Bound" the rest of the time he relies heavily on closed position shapes on the the three high strings whilst striking the D string as his bass note. He slides in to his D chord like his life depends on it and often times plays the minor 3rd (first fret, high E string) back and forth with the major 3rd to accentuate the rhythm or structure. He has a tendency in this position to substitute his V chord (A7) for an II minor (E Minor) using the same shape as his D chord. You can hear this a lot in "Let's Get Along".
He also plays a D chord high up the neck with an A shape in some songs most notably the verse part of "Shake That Thing". Also has a tendency on the IV chord to quickly play F, E and D back and forth.

Two flat picked songs in D "Take Me Back Blues" and "Lexington Kentucky Blues" use virtually the same accompaniment, and end each phrase with a line on the D string playing a minor 3rd then major 3rd then a B and A on the fifth string. For his diminished chord he always plays it as G minor punctuated by a quick move on the 5th string from A to Bb. He tends to play an E7 for a bar before playing an A7 acting as the V chord. He ends his songs in this position either by playing a descending line down finishing on a C note with several open strings ringing to make for an interesting sound, or will rock back and forth between minor and major thirds on the high E string.

There are some anomalies in D, "Gay Cattin" has an interesting chord progression and does not utilise most of the moves discussed above. "Up The Way Bound" is in Drop D and sounds much more like Robert Wilkins with the PCJ added quirks. His acoustic version of "Take Me Back Blues" has an interesting string pinging segment that mostly follows a standard boogie bassline

Eb Position: Not much is to be said about Eb position as he only recorded one song in it "Ash Tray Blues" however we do hear the quite striking augmented ninth he adds to his F7 chord which is also heard in his Bb playing.

E position: PCJ only ever finger picked in E position and some of the stuff he plays especially in his solo passages are theoretically pretty advanced utilising a lot of chord tones and passing notes. The first few seconds he ever waxed on record "Papa's Lawdy Lawd Blues" for example took me an unholy amount of of time to figure out. Chords wise PCJ liked to play his E major at the forth fret G and E strings, then quickly play a II (F sharp Major) V (B7), before quickly descending down from the E chord chromatically on the two strings (B, A#, A and G# G and F#) For his diminished he plays a standard diminished shape at the second fret. For his V he plays the II V progression discussed above. You can hear this similar sounding accompaniment on songs like "Maxwell Street Blues" "'Faking Blues" and the High strung G guitar on "Texas Blues" He liked to add the IV minor (A minor) to some songs as a turnaround, you can hear this on "Papa's Lawdy Lawd Blues' and "'Mumsy Blues". Often times he'll end a song descending on the second string D, C#, C and B and sort of vamp on that till he ends on the D note.

F Position: he only ever flat picked in this position with nothing much to note all his chord are closed positioned and he likes to add bass lines to join the chords together neatly. His playing is much more centred on accompaniment in this position. You can hear it in the two duets he did with Ma Rainey

G position: Finger picked PCJ sticks to a small amount of tricks in G I don't want to go through the entire phrase he plays, It encompasses G,F,E,D,B and occasionally he throws in a Bb to B move. Interestingly he only seldom adds a diminished chord to his IV preferring instead to play a straightforward C chord. He only plays the V chord (D7) over his V. He likes to sometimes end the progression with a diminished chord position at the second fret, the same one he uses in E position. This is probably the most obvious tell that the song is in G position. There are times as well in this position notably "I Like to Love My Baby" and "What's That Thing She's Shaking" when he applies Blake-esque thumb rolls on the lower strings.

He does some lovely Flat picking in G similar in his approach to other keys but notably utilises more open position chords. For his solo breaks he uses a range of chord tones and bass lines played at a frenetic pace some of the time and other times leisurely. "I'll be Gone Babe" and "'I've Got What It Takes" are good examples of this.

A Position: PCJ carved out a very distinct style for himself in this position also. Most notably is the descending phrase he plays at times as a turnaround and other times as a retort to the vocal, he basically plays a closed position B7 chord (A position) at the fourth fret and descends down chromatically keeping his pinkie on the fifth fret of the High E string. He varies this slightly sometimes to end a song most notably in "Jungle Man Blues" where he descends down chromatically using the the D, G and B strings only. He plays his diminished chord at the forth fret. Much of his note choice for the little fills he does in between vocals is similar to that of G position intervals discussed above. Sometimes for his V he'll play a II V as discussed, other times however he plays a E7 in one position and once he takes a breath to finish his sung phrase will play another E7 in D position. His solo passages are all pretty similar sounding and he tends to stick to that throughout, You can hear it at hyper speed on "I'm Tired Of Fooling Around With You" and at a more moderate pace on "Forgotton Blues"

PCJ liked showing off his flat picking chops in A Position. "Hot Papa Blues" is probably most notable also the accompaniment he provides Lucille Bogan on "Jim Tampa Blues" is pretty much the same. Very fast with an extremely well controlled tremolo. Whether he is actually tremolo picking or just picking is hard to tell, for my money it sounds much too articulated to be tremolo picked and though it's fast it's certainly not impossible.

The interesting anomaly in A position is "Jackson Blues" played on a low tuned guitar which is played completely different to anything else he recorded in that position, playing bass lines whilst maintaining a ringing A note on the first string is the main part with some more string pinging as well. Also "Tailor Made Lover" has a very interesting introduction using closed position chords up the neck.

B Flat Position: Again PCJ only ever flat picked in this position and as noted played a very striking F7 with an augmented ninth which really rings out when you hear it. Other than that it's closed position chords with neat bass lines in between. Sometimes played slowly "Four Eleven Forty Four" and other times quickly "Skoodle Um Skoo"

The last two titles he ever recorded "What's That Thing" and "You Put It In, I'll Take It Out" both start off with introductions made up of basically the same chords, however the former in G descends, whilst the latter in C ascends.

Mike Billo:
Much respect and props to you, Sir, for a job well done. I take my hat off

Thanks, Mike!

Jumpin Jimmy:
This is just what I was hoping to find! PCJ was a true monster.  Thanks for your work and scholarship.

Hi Jumpin Jimmy,
If you're interested in Papa Charlie Jackson you might find the complete listing of his playing positions for his recorded repertoire that I posted several years ago interesting. You can find it in Weeniepedia at:
All best,


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