Entry Category: Music - Starting with J

Jackson, Joseph Walter (Joe)

Joseph Walter (Joe) Jackson was a talent manager best known as the father and manager of his children’s careers, including the Jackson 5, Michael Jackson, and Janet Jackson. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2011. Joseph Walter Jackson was born on July 26, 1928, in Fountain Hill (Ashley County). He was the oldest of five children of Samuel Joseph Jackson and Crystal Lee King. His father was a schoolteacher. Jackson remembered that his father was one of few African Americans in the area to own a car. The elite status earned his father the nickname of “Professor Jackson.” Much of Jackson’s childhood was spent in Arkansas. However, when his parents separated, he left Arkansas at the …

Janes, Roland

Roland Janes was a well-known session guitar player who worked with Sam Phillips at the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. He was elected to the Southern Legends Entertainment & Performing Arts Hall of Fame and the Memphis Music Hall of Fame. His guitar is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. Roland Janes was born on August 20 ,1933, in Brookings (Clay County) to R. D. Janes and Mary Pearl Janes; he had three brothers and three sisters. Janes learned to play guitar and performed in country bands with his cousins while living in Arkansas. His parents divorced when he was about ten, and his mother moved to St. Louis, Missouri; he shuttled back and …

Jazz Music

  With New Orleans, Louisiana, and Kansas City, Missouri, emerging as the booming urban epicenters of jazz music and inevitably spilling this music and culture across interstate lines, Arkansas began to see a number of touring “territory bands” sprout up around the state in the late 1910s and early 1920s. Some of the first included Sterling Todd’s Rose City Orchestra; the Quinn Band out of Fort Smith (Sebastian County); and the Synco Six out of Helena (Phillips County), led by banjo player Gene Crooke. All three bands were at some point joined by Arkansas’s first major jazz musician, pianist Alphonso E. “Phonnie” Trent. Trent played with the Rose City Orchestra and the Quinn Band during his teenage years before eventually …

Jeffress/Phillips Music Company

The Jeffress/Phillips Music Company, located in Crossett (Ashley County), is one of the five remaining seven-shape gospel publishing companies in the United States and is the sole seven-shape gospel publisher in the state of Arkansas. While known best as a rural tradition, shape notes, sometimes referred to as character or patent notes, are visual cues that act as points of reference, creating a unique notational style composed of geometric figures. This teaching mechanism led to the development of a rich and varied canon of American folk hymnody notated and practiced in shape notes, of which seven-shape gospel music comprises one specific tradition. Successor to the Jeffress Music Company, Jeffress/Phillips Music is a family-run operation. William Nolin Jeffress, founder of the …

Jewell, Buddy

Buddy Jewell is a country musician best known for having won the top prize in the first season of the reality television show Nashville Star, which landed him a recording contract with Columbia Records. His first major-label album, Buddy Jewell, reached gold-record status after being released in July 2003. Later projects have not been as successful as his debut, but he continues to make music and record in Nashville, Tennessee. In 2015, Jewell was inducted into the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame. Buddy Jewell was born on April 2, 1961, in Lepanto (Poinsett County), the second of three children born to Leslie L. “Buddy” Jewell, a native of Louisiana, and Eva Lorene Harris, a native of Arkansas. For a time, the …

John, “Little Willie”

aka: William Edgar John
William Edgar “Little Willie” John was a powerful rhythm and blues vocalist and songwriter who recorded several hit songs, including the original version of “Fever” at age eighteen. Little Willie John was born on November 15, 1937, in Cullendale (Ouachita County). He was one of ten children. His father, Mertis, was a logger in northern Louisiana and southern Arkansas; his mother, Lillie, played guitar and sang gospel songs, teaching them to her children. His sister Mable, also raised in Ouachita County, recorded as a Raelette for Ray Charles and solo for Stax Records. In 1942, the Johns moved to Detroit, Michigan, so Mertis could pursue factory work. The eldest children, including Willie, formed a gospel quintet in the 1940s. A …

Johnny Cash Heritage Festival

The Johnny Cash Heritage Festival is an annual event held in Dyess (Mississippi County), the small town where Johnny Cash lived until he was eighteen years old. The festival, begun in October 2017, features several days of music, arts and crafts, scholarly lectures, and appearances by Cash family members and nationally known performers. The event is sponsored by the Cultural Heritage Program at Arkansas State University (ASU), headed by Dr. Ruth Hawkins. The festival is held in October, traditionally a month of good weather in northeastern Arkansas as well as the period when farmers are harvesting cotton. From 2011 to 2014, ASU held the Johnny Cash Music Festival in Jonesboro (Craighead County), featuring concerts by such country music luminaries as Rosanne …

Jones, Willa Saunders

Willa Saunders Jones grew up in Little Rock (Pulaski County) during the first decades of the twentieth century before moving to Chicago, Illinois, where she became a prominent religious and cultural leader. Her crowning achievement was a passion play (a dramatization of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection), which she wrote in the 1920s and produced for more than five decades in churches and eventually prestigious civic theaters. The play featured top musical talent, including Dinah Washington and Jones’s close friend Mahalia Jackson, and drew support from such prominent figures as the Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. and Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley. Her success in music as a soloist, accompanist, and choral director and in drama stemmed from early experiences in …

Joplin, Scott

Known as the “King of Ragtime,” Scott Joplin composed more than forty ragtime piano pieces, including “Maple Leaf Rag” (which sold more than a million copies) and “The Entertainer” (which was used in the 1973 film The Sting). He spent his formative years in Texarkana (Miller County), and his major opera, Treemonisha, is set in the plantation area of Rondo (Miller County) north of Texarkana. Scott Joplin was born on November 24, 1867 or 1868, near Marshall, Texas. His father, Giles, was a former slave, and his mother, Florence, was a freed woman from Kentucky. The family moved to Texarkana early in Joplin’s life so that his father could obtain work on the railroad. Joplin showed an early interest in …

Jordan, Louis Thomas

Louis Thomas Jordan—vocalist, bandleader, and saxophonist—ruled the charts, stage, screen, and airwaves of the 1940s and profoundly influenced the creators of rhythm and blues (R&B), rock n’ roll, and post–World War II blues. Louis Jordan was born on July 8, 1908, in Brinkley (Monroe County). His father, Dardanelle (Yell County) native James Aaron Jordan, led the Brinkley Brass Band; his mother, Mississippi native Adell, died when Louis was young. Jordan studied music under his father and showed promise in horn playing, especially clarinet and saxophone. Due to World War I vacancies, young Jordan joined his father’s band himself. Soon, he was good enough to join his father in a professional traveling show—touring Arkansas, Tennessee, and Missouri by train, instead of …