Arts Desk

Jimmy “Junebug” Jackson, 1957-2012

Junebug Jackson

Jimmy Jackson, the D.C.-based jazz drummer who was best known by his nickname "Junebug," died of congestive heart failure at about 1 a.m. today at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring. Ten days earlier, he had turned 55.

Jackson had struggled recently with his health. "We played with him last two thursdays ago [at HR-57's weekly jam session], and he wasnt feeling well," says bassist Mark Saltman. He was admitted to the hospital this past week, and unsuccessfully underwent surgery Friday.

A self-taught instrumentalist, Jackson first picked up the drumsticks at 11, picking out the lick to James Brown's "Cold Sweat" at his grandmother's house in Kalamazoo, Mich. He learned to play as a funk drummer, but moved into jazz upon encountering organist Jimmy Smith. Jackson ended up in Smith's touring band for the last 21 years of the organist's life. He spent time living in Atlanta and in Los Angeles before settling in Washington and becoming the house drummer at the HR-57 jazz club.

Jackson was a beloved figure in local and jazz and beyond. He was known for his omnipresent sense of humor and easy way with a one-liner; on the bandstand, Jackson had a "STFU" sign he would hold up for noisy audiences. Asked about his status as HR-57's house drummer in 2010, Jackson corrected this writer: "I'm house clown if I'm anything," he said.

"He had a fearless spirit, and he would always bring his own individuality no matter who was around him," says pianist William Knowles. "He was never intimidated by anyone, because he would always bring himself and that was worth something."

Jackson also had an unshakeable sense of swing behind the kit. "Jimmy Smith used to say, Can you make the music dance? and thats what Bug did, and why he played with him for 21 years," says Knowles.

"He just had that groove thing, and knew how to come up with exactly what the music needed," says Saltman. "He was swingin' to the end."

He also made the music sing; Jackson was an occasional vocalist with a warm, surprisingly smooth voice that brought a sense of merriment.

A tribute to Jackson at HR-57 is being planned.

He is survived by two sons and his wife, Chandra.

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  • Dave Bass

    I will miss you, Jimmy. I miss our talks.

  • David Cato

    I'm really gonna to miss my friend. Jimmy touched us all and I'm gonna miss his presence, his spirit and his joy. He was something special. Rest In Peace my brother.

  • mike young

    Thank you Jimmy for sharing your life with ALL of us, You were as real as they come. God knows who to place in our lives and when, and I have been blessed to have crossed paths with you. You have taught me well, I love you Madly.

  • Kevin Coombe

    Thanks for writing this! FYI, he was also the talented drummer for important Detroit soul/funk group, The Counts, and recorded on a number of their albums released on Westbound. His image is also featured on the cover of the Counts' LP "What's Up Front That Counts".

  • Neal

    I got to see June

  • Neal – Som Records

    I got to see and hear Junebug quite a few times at the Eighteenth Street Lounge. I would DJ between sets in the jazz room and Junebug would always comment on whatever I was playing that week. He had big personality. The one thing I remember about his drumming was how hard he could hit while barely moving his body at all. He made it look so easy. RIP big guy, I'll drink a Heineken in your honor tonight.

  • Gabrielle Goyette

    Junebug was always such a gentleman to me. He took great care of me in Atlanta doing Debbie Allen's Soul Possessed at the Alliance Theatre. He was fierce and is now drumming with the THE BAND. I hope you really know how much I love you. There will never be another Junebug. I wish I had one more time to see and talk with you but you know I still will. I love you.....Gab

  • American Rogue

    RIP Junebug!!!

  • Chris

    This is so sad.

    I didn't really know Junebug at all. I had no idea he had played, and for so long, with Jimmy Smith, one of the absolute legends of American music. And I also had no idea he was the drummer for the Counts, who I've really liked ever since I heard "Rhythm Changes" on the _A Sweet Taste of Westbound_ compilation I picked up ~15 years ago. I just knew that I started going to HR-57's mid-week jams recently; and Junebug, who acted as Master of Ceremonies, was the perfect host -- happy to see everyone who was there, and happy about the music and for everyone to be there and be a part of it.

    I selfishly regret that I won't get a real chance to talk with him, and learn from him, about music.

  • Stephen jackson

    RIP. Pops I miss u man, love u , in so proud of u

  • Emma Asobie

    Thanks for making me feel right at home Jimmy when I came out to Atlanta to visit with my brother. That wasthe first time I met youand ?I will alwaysremember you for your great sense of humor and the love you had for life. Getting the chance to hear you play was such a pleasure. I will miss you my friend and willsee you again one day. Thanks for being you, God has yet another angel up there! Rest in peace.

  • James Earl Jones 111

    he was my buddy and real tight friend I love you and will miss you peace

  • Jamal Reynolds

    Rest In Peace Uncle J!!! You will be missed!!!!

  • Clarence Dancer

    Jimmy,or"Junebug"as you came to be know,rest in peace,childhood friend.

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  • Nigel Reynolds

    R.I.P Uncle Jimmyou were an outstanding person and my first and only fvorite drummer. You will truely be missed.

  • Devonna Cooper

    I live in Decatur,GA and I met Jimmy at Dugans in Atlanta about nine years ago. We at Dugans on Ponce de Leon are like a family. "Cheers" is the best way to describe it. We (regulars) would get together after work and unwind. We also would get together and go other places to party. Jimmy heart & soul was jazz. I remember when Jimmy left Atlanta. We were all sad to see him go, but happy that he was going forward with his career. He had just finished his CD and he sold many copies to his friends before he left. I seen Jimmy last year when he came down for a visit. Always the same. "Hey MF!" was a thing we all used to say. Although some would find it disrespectful, it was all in fun. We are having a tribute of remembrance of Jimmy on next Tuesday, February 7th at 5:30 at Dugans on Ponce in Atlanta. A live band, food and drinks to remember our fellow Duganite!! He will never be forgotten.
    R.I.P. Jimmy.

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  • Aubrey Avery, Jr.

    Jimmy, we will miss you brother and to your family which became our extended family, we are wishing you God's continual Blessings. Thanks for sharing your talent with the world, may you rest in God's eternal peace. To your family,he was one of the greats, and always remained true to himself. Thanks for sharing.

  • Maurice “Steve” Chambers

    Jimmy was my inspiration to do music. They ( The Ripples) used to hold rehearsal in my our basement, and I would sneak out of bed and sit on the steps and watch. He was'nt that much older than me, but I was like, "That's what I want to do". After school I would get on his set of drums and try to emulate him. After putting a couple of holes in his bass and snare drum, he sat me down and showed me how to play correct without tearing up his drum heads. Then he show me some chords on the keyboard so his brother Curtis wouldn't get on me. We've kept in contact over a 35 year span. I gonna miss him dearly. RIP My brother, friend, and mentor.

  • James Jackson

    Read in Peace Dad.

    It is because of you Stephen and I have a great since of humor as well as a great appreciation for music. We were always proud to see you on stage because you were truly at home up there. As the most talented person I know, you taught me how to follow my dreams. And I will.

    We love you and miss you

  • Jody Martin

    I remember Jimmy with such love and respect. I have been a regular at Dugans in Atlanta for many years and Jimmy always had a smarta$$ comment (which was always hilarious) for everyone who came in the door. His (and my) favorite "Hey MF? was his typical greeting. We were all very sad when he left Atlanta, but were very happy that he was furthering his career. We loved you so much Jimmy and will miss you so much too. Anyone in the ATL who knew Jimmy or just loved his music, please come on down to Dugans on Ponce tonight around 5:30 and celebrate a great man.

    R.I.P. my friend.

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