Singer, Joanne Jackson, comes from a rich musical heritage in her family – her father and uncle had their own band; her brother Bob played drums for internationally-known Jazz guitarist, Calvin Keys; and her sister, Marchell, is a noted singer in her own right.
Joanne first sang in public at the age of four, with her father, who also exposed his daughter to records by artists like Fats Waller, Ethel Waters, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie. She would go on to win 1st place in a contest which included singing on the radio.
Jackson would eventually go on to learn the piano and then study violin and voice through her college years.
Her influences, besides late night sessions listening to a radio station that played Gospel and Blues, include Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, B.B. King, and Ray Charles (who she later met in a club in Vancouver, singing her own arrangement of “Happy Birthday” to him). Other inspiration comes from Gladys Knight, Keb’ Mo’, Aaron Neville, Big Mama Thornton, and Aretha Franklin. Aretha turned Jackson on to her bass player who would perform with Joanne between gigs with Franklin.
Jackson sang with Witches Brew in the mid-’70s, and has worked with such luminaries as Ruth Brown in Guys and Dolls in Las Vegas, legendary bassist Leroy Vinnegar, Al Viola (guitarist with Frank Sinatra), and sang with the Count Basie Band that included the great Sonny Payne and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis.
She has performed in festivals in Los Angeles and Aucklund, New Zealand, and has performed in the stage productions of The Wiz, Pearlie, and the Tony award winning Porgy and Bess with the Houston Grand Opera. She also has won awards for her starring role in Blues In The Night, performing in London, Dublin, and L.A.
Jackson once sang for Memphis Slim, who wrote the classic “Everday I Have The Blues.” She sang that same song in Paris, France while having drinks with French film icon, Jean Seberg, originally from Marshalltown, Iowa.
Jackson recorded one album in 1989 in Sidney, Australia, titled Woman Of Substance, no longer in print.
She has since been inducted into the Greater Des Moines Community Jazz Center’s Hall of Fame, and has performed at the Bowlful of Blues Fest in her hometown of Newton, Iowa with both her own band and with her cousin, Jeff Banks.
Don “T-Bone” Erickson
PHOTO © SCOTT ALLEN – VIVIDPIX.COM