Jackie Washington | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Jackie Washington

Jackie Washington, singer, guitarist, pianist (born 12 November 1919 in Hamilton, ON; died 27 June 2009 in Hamilton).

Singer, guitarist, pianist, b b Hamilton, Ont, 12 Nov 1919, d Hamilton 27 June 2009; honorary DH (McMaster) 2003. At five he began to sing for social functions in Hamilton's black community. Under the influence of the Mills Brothers, he and his brothers Ormsby, Harold and Doc performed 1930-8 as the Washingtons in Southern Ontario dance halls. While variously employed outside of music during the 1940s and 1950s, he continued to appear in Hamilton and Toronto nightclubs and was heard 1943-53 as a disc jockey on Hamilton radio stations CKOC and CHML.

In the mid-1960s Washington was taken up by Canadian folk audiences as the sole Canadian contemporary of the veteran US folk-blues musicians who were then enjoying a revival in North America. He subsequently appeared widely at Canadian festivals (eg, regularly at the Festival of Friends in Hamilton and the Home County Folk Festival in London, Ont, and Northern Lights in Sudbury, Ont) and coffeehouses. Washington, however, has never been strictly a blues musician. His repertoire of more than 1200 songs includes pop tunes and novelty items as well as blues and jazz classics, and his jocular delivery is that of the entertainer rather than the traditionalist.

Washington made three solo albums and another four with Mose Scarlett and Ken Whiteley, and was seen in the film version of Sneezy Waters' Hank WIlliams: The Show He Never Gave. Two books, a memoir prepared by James Strecker, Talks with Jackie Washington (Hamilton 1988) and Washington's autobiography (with Strecker), More than a blues singer (Hamilton 1996), detail the singer's experiences as a black performer in Canada and his encounters with visiting US jazz musicians. In 2005, Washington was the subject of a television documentary on Bravo.

Among his awards and honours, Jackie Washington received lifetime achievement awards from the Ontario Arts Council (1991), the Maple Blues Awards (1998), the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals (2001) and the Hamilton Music Awards (2004). He was inducted into the Canadian Jazz and Blues Hall of Fame in 2002. Washington's archives and collections are at McMaster University.

Further Reading