Jump to content
Gibson Brands Forums

Papa Charlie Jackson and the Gibson GB guitar-banjo


Recommended Posts

Believe it or not, the first popular male blues singer, Papa Charlie Jackon, recorded most of his records using a Gibson GB model guitar-banjo. I’ve just posted a 3,700-word article about him, “Papa Charlie Jackson: The First Popular Male Blues Singer.” This covers the known details of Jackson’s life and recordings, including his solo 78s, duets with Ma Rainey and Blind Blake and others, his Freddie Keppard band recording, and his work as a sideman. As part of the research, I asked master flatpicker Norman Blake for insights into the distinctive Gibson BG banjo-guitar Papa Charlie is holding in his best known photo. Here's what he said: “Papa Charlie’s holding a Gibson GB, for ‘guitar-banjo,’ and I have one from 1921. This particular model is a very primitive open-back with a huge fourteen-inch head – I call mine ’Goliath.’ It has a regular old-style Gibson laminated guitar neck with sort of a moccasin-type headstock rather than the snake-head variety. The three-on-a-plate tuners are like those on the old Gibson guitars, and it also has a short trapeze-type tailpiece and a white ivoroid pickguard that mounts and slides on a rod. The instrument is soft-sounding compared to what you generally think of as being in the banjo family. This is probably because the sound is spread out by that big head. When Papa Charlie just strums rhythm chords on some things, he gets kind of a funky, sloshy sound, and I like his general looseness.”


I’ve also included a scan of the 1926 transcription of “Salty Dog” published in the Paramount Book of the Blues. If you’re interested in seeing all this, it’s posted here: Jas Obrecht Music Archive: Papa Charlie Jackson

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...