John Bobo Jenkins

Born: Jan. 7, 1916  Forkland, AL

Died: Aug. 14, 1984

Jenkins played a roughed-up brand of blues that often included clever social commentary in the lyrics. Two of his best-known tunes were, "Democrat Blues" and "Watergate Blues". In 1954, he recorded for Chess, singing and playing guitar.  In the 50's Jenkins recorded for Boxer and Fortune.  In the 70's he founded the Big Star label, and issued three albums.

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

"I was workin’ out to Chrysler and I sat down at the end of the line and wrote that song, The whirrin’ of the machines gives me the beat. It’s like listening to a band play all day. Every song I ever wrote that’s any good came to me on the assembly line.”— Bobo Jenkins[8]

Bobo Jenkins (January 7, 1916 – August 14, 1984)[2] was an American Detroit blues and electric blues guitarist, singer and songwriter. He also built and set up his own recording studio and record label in Detroit.[1] Jenkins is best known for his recordings of "Democrat Blues" and "Tell Me Where You Stayed Last Night".[2]


He was born John Pickens Jenkins in Forkland, Alabama,[2] but when less than a year old his father, a sharecropper, died and Jenkins grew up with his mother and uncle. However, he left home before the age of 12, and arrived in Memphis, Tennessee. He had a wife at the age of 14, the first of ten marriages. Jenkins took casual work in the Mississippi Delta for several years and then enrolled in the United States Army. Following his 1944 military discharge, he relocated to Detroit, working for Packard and managing a garage, before spending twenty seven years working for Chrysler.[1]

In the late 1940s Jenkins learned the guitar and starting writing songs. He penned the politically motivated "Democrat Blues" on US Election Day in 1952.[3] Therein Jenkins expressed his disquiet about Dwight D. Eisenhower becoming the first Republican in the White House for almost twenty years.[4]

With assistance from John Lee Hooker, Jenkins recorded "Democrat Blues" in Chicago in 1954, which was released by Chess Records. A further issue appeared on Chicago's Boxer Records, and then "Ten Below Zero" (1957) on Detroit's Fortune Records. In 1959 he set up his own record label, Big Star Records, whose first release was Jenkin's single "You"ll Never Understand" and "Tell Me Where You Stayed Last Night." He met and played alongside Sonny Boy Williamson II, before self-constructing his own recording studio. He recorded mainly local musicians including James "Little Daddy" Walton, Little Junior Cannady, Chubby Martin and Syl Foreman.[1]

Jenkins went on to promote the first Detroit Blues Festival in 1972, and the same year issued his first album, The Life of Bobo Jenkins. Conversely the LP became known as the "red album", due to the color of the record sleeve, which included a photograph of a younger Jenkins (who, by now, was 56 years old) within a star shape, to tie in with the Big Star Records name. Jenkins was one of the headline acts in the Detroit blues review part of the 1973 Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival. Recordings from the festival were released by Schoolkids Records in 1995, which included two tracks by Jenkins. In 1974, Jenkins penned another song with political overtones, "Watergate Blues," which appeared on his next album Here I Am a Fool in Love Again. It boasted the same cover design as the previous release, but with a change in color was alternatively dubbed the "green album". Session musicians used included Ann Arbor based artists such as Sarah Brown, Fran Christina and Steve Nardella.[1] In 1976 Jenkins performed at the Smithsonian Institution, as part of the celebrations marking the US Bicentennial.

Detroit All Purpose Blues was issued in 1977, his so-called "yellow album", which utilised other Detroit based blues musicians such as Buddy Folks and Willie D. Warren. In 1982, he went to Europe with the American Living Blues Festival tour, but due to poor health he returned home after his first concert.[1]

Bobo Jenkins died in Detroit after a long illness in August 1984, at the age of 68.[2]



The Life of Bobo Jenkins (1972) - Big Star

Here I Am a Fool in Love Again (1974) - Big Star

Detroit All Purpose Blues (1977) - Big Star

The Life of Bobo Jenkins (2003) - P-Vine (re-issue)[5][6]

Compilation albums

Motor City Blues (1973)[7]



1^ a b c d e f Reif, Fred. "Bobo Jenkins". Allmusic. Retrieved May 21, 2010.

2^ a b c d (1980s) - accessed May 2010

3^ van Rijn, Guido (2006). The Truman and Eisenhower blues: African-American blues and gospel songs (1st ed.). London, England: Continuum. p. 102. ISBN 0-8264-5657-X.

4^ "Big Road Blues". Retrieved May 21, 2010.

5^ "Allmusic ((( Bobo Jenkins > Discography > Main Albums )))".

6^ "". - accessed May 2010

7^ - accessed May 2010

8^ Buresh, Tom J.. "Chair's message - Michigan architecture". Retrieved May 21, 2010.


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