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Melvin "Lil' Son" Jackson

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Lil' Son Jackson was a stylistic throwback from the moment he first turned up during the immediate postwar era. Born Melvin Jackson, he was a Texas country bluesman of the highest order whose rustic approach appealed wholeheartedly to the early-'50s blues marketplace. His dad loved blues, while his mother played gospel guitar. Their son's initial experience came with a spiritual aggregation called the Blue Eagle Four. A mechanic by trade, he served in the Army during World War II before giving the idea of being a professional blues musician a shot. In 1946, he shipped off a demo to Bill Quinn, who owned a Houston diskery called Gold Star Records. Quinn was suitably impressed, inking Jackson and enjoying a national R&B hit, "Freedom Train Blues," in 1948 for his modest investment. It would prove Jackson's only national hit, although his 1950-1954 output for Imperial Records must have sold consistently, judging from how many sides the L.A. firm issued by the Texas guitarist. Jackson's best Imperial work was recorded solo. Later attempts to squeeze his style into a small band format (his idea, apparently) tended to emphasize his timing eccentricities. His "Rockin' and Rollin'," cut in December of 1950, became better known through a raft of subsequent covers as "Rock Me Baby." He gave up the blues during the mid-'50s after an auto wreck, resuming work as a mechanic. Arhoolie Records boss Chris Strachwitz convinced Jackson to cut an album in 1960, but his comeback proved fleeting. Jackson died of cancer on May 30, 1976, in Dallas, Texas. ~ Bill Dahl