top of page
Search
  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

Ken Wallis Chats With Erin McCallum & Chuck Jackson About Canada's New Blues Award


By Ken Wallis. Photo: Chuck Jackson.



A new award for blues artists has come into existence. We chatted with Erin McCallum, who created the award, and Chuck Jackson, the first ever recipient.


Ken Wallis interviewed Erin and Chuck for the radio show BluesSource Canada. The following are excerpts from that interview, amended and edited for clarity and brevity.




Ken Wallis

There's a brand-new award that honours the icons of the blues music industry and to tell us all about it is Erin McCallum. Erin, thanks for coming on the show.


Erin McCallum

Hey Ken, thanks so much for having me here with you today.

Ken Wallis

Tell us a little bit about this new award.


Erin McCallum

It's the Erin McCallum Blues Legend and Legacy Distinction and what it aims to do is to recognize artists who have made an impact in the Canadian Blues Collective and it serves to educate people on those musicians.

Ken Wallis

And who is the recipient of the very first award?

Erin McCallum

The very first ever Erin McCallum Blues Legend recipient is Mr. Chuck Jackson.

Ken Wallis

And speaking of Legends we are joined by Chuck Jackson. Chuck, great seeing you again.


Chuck Jackson

Great to see you guys.


Erin McCallum

Maybe it helps to explain the award. It's a two-tiered sort of thing. There's this really high mandate for somebody to be recognized as a Blues Legend and once they are they have full rights to acknowledge up to two musicians who meet a criteria who have also made a lasting impression within the blues music Collective. So now that Chuck has been named a Blues Legend, he took the entitlement to name two musicians for the Blues Legacy distinction.

Ken Wallis

And Chuck, who are those recipients?

Chuck Jackson

Two of my favourite musicians of all time, and I just feel like they've never been recognized properly. Hock Walsh, Donnie Walsh's brother and Downchild Blues Band creator, which was a big inspiration to The Blues Brothers. And of course, probably one of the greatest boogie woogie piano players in Canada, and that's Jane Vasey, who was another Downchild Blues Band member. Both those people we lost way too early, and I I don't think they've been recognized, especially by a lot of younger and newer Blues musicians in Canada. They really got it going for them.

Erin McCallum

Chuck say a thing or two about your time participating in the blues music Collective because two really important pieces of your recognition is that you have been performing for well over half a century, but you've also contributed significantly being a founder and a director of the Southside Shuffle for 25 years.


Chuck Jackson

I started really young. I was raised by my grandparents and they were musical, very much into country music. I listened to Hank Williams which is about as close to the blues as you can get without heading down the Mississippi. My grandmother used to say Chucky, no singing around the table. I went to Sunday school, and I sang in the choir. At that time, I’d come home from school in ‘58 and watch The Mickey Mouse Club and then immediately turn on American Bandstand. I remember seeing Fats Domino and just going wow this is unreal, with so many great songs like Ain't That A Shame. It was just an inspiration to me. My grandparents of course had Elvis plastered all over the walls in their bedroom and 45s and records. I had that early influence of rock ‘n roll with Little Richard and all the greats. That really got me going and then later on I was introduced to the blues. One of my first 45's I ever bought was Chain Gang by Sam Cooke, who probably is one of my favourite singers of all time. I was very much influenced by Stax and Motown and R&B, and like every other kid in the 60's, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and the British Invasion.


Erin McCallum

I think it's also important to mention that you were 12 years old when you were like, this is what I want to do, and you joined your first band and that was kind of it for you. You knew you wanted to do music.


Chuck Jackson

Well, I was actually in grade five and I was 32. [LAUGHTER]. But yeah, I started in grade five with my first band and they were school buddies and we played together for years and years. One of my best friends, Angus, who passed away unfortunately years ago with cancer was a big influence on me. He went to England on vacation and came back with John Mayall and the Blues Breakers and the Cream album. He got it six months before it was in Canada and just a great array of music. My real mother was a big Frank Sinatra fan and Dean Martin, so I love the whole gamut. A lot of people don't realize it, but Elvis's favourite singer was Dean Martin and when you think about him doing some of the slow stuff, he sounds like Dean. He didn't have dark hair, but he saw Tony Curtis and he dyed his hair dark. James Brown started the cape thing with a professional wrestler. Everybody got ideas from different things, and it was a great time. I mean you got a chance to go to the Colonial Tavern in Toronto. Yonge Street was magical, it was like Las Vegas but in the 1960's and everybody played there. I saw Sonny, I saw James Cotton, I saw Muddy Waters. I saw great jazz players like Dave Brubeck and I’d go every Saturday night.

Erin McCallum

Well, this is one of the reasons why this distinction exists. For certain people, like let's say, somebody of my age, I came up in the blues a generation after you, and that just wasn't there. But it's important that people know about it and I think you're part of that. Being the recipient of the Blues Legend Distinction, what does that mean to you?

Chuck Jackson

It's an honour for one thing, but the main thing for me is the fantastic musicians I played with over the years, with the Cameo Blues Band and Downchild of course. I never thought in a million years I’d be in the Downchild Blues Band. I had a blues band in 1969 and my two favourite bands were Downchild and Whiskey Howl and actually, I liked Whisky HowL better at that time. [LAUGHTER].


Ken Wallis

Well, we won’t tell anyone Chuck.

Chuck Jackson

As long as Donny doesn’t find out then I can stay in the band for a while. [LAUGHTER CONTINUES]


Ken Wallis

Chuck, the award is well deserved and we're all very happy that you are the first recipient of the award. For folks out there who want to read more about the award, go to bluesandroots.com and Erin's got a whole bunch of info up there.

Chuck Jackson

Thank you very much and one of the things I just want to say, I've been going through some bad health and I had so many people reach out to me. Young kids that we gave them their start at the Southside Shuffle, the Junior Jam people like Jimmy Bowskill and Steve Mariner and all these people. It's just very gratifying.


Ken Wallis

We'll all be at the Southside Shuffle coming up September 8th, 9th and 10th. Erin and Chuck thank you so much and thank you both for all your time.



Photo: Erin McCallum.


Read more about the award in The Sound Cafe www.thesoundcafe.com/post/recipients-of-the-erin-mccallum-blues-legend


Read Erin McCallum's monthly column for The Sound Cafe featuring Chuck Jackson

www.thesoundcafe.com/post/behind-the-curtain-chuck-jackson


bottom of page