The Music & Life Of
Big Jack Reynolds
“That’s A Good Way To Get To Heaven”
Third Street Cigar Records
By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © August 2019
Unknown Legend – is that a thing? It sound’s like it shouldn’t be and most likely isn’t. On the other hand, if you wanted to break the rule, Big Jack Reynolds is the guy to do it with. To those in the Detroit and Toledo areas who knew and worked with him, the man was a legend; but to pretty much the rest of the world, he was virtually unknown. Marshall “Big Jack” Reynolds was strictly a regional blues musician whose amazing talents were sadly kept under the radar. It wasn’t until after his death in 1993, when because of a few serious blues collectors, word of Big Jack would begin to spread. Now, some twenty-five years later, with the release of Third Street Cigars and TSC Entertainment’s “That’s A Good Way To Get To Heaven: The Music & Life Of Big Jack Reynolds” – a CD and DVD collection of Jack’s rarest recordings – the word about Big Jack is about to deservedly spread like wildfire.
As mentioned, “That’s A Good Way To Get To Heaven” includes a CD containing twenty tracks – of which a half dozen or so are archival (with absolutely no information available) and an eighty-minute DVD. The CD features: Marshall “Big Jack” Reynolds on vocals. harmonica and guitar; Larry Gold on guitar; Johnny “HiFi” Newman and Joel Hazzard on bass; Slim Tim Gahagan and Chris Arduser on drums; Chad Smith on piano; and The Cobra Twist Horns which consist of: Brad “The Razor” Sharp on trumpet; Randy “The Slider” Knisely on trombone; and “Kevin “Nationwide” Maude on saxophone. Of its twenty tracks, eleven are originals and nine are covers.
The visual disc is loaded with informative and sometimes hilarious interviews; footage of rare performances not seen since the eighties; other privately recorded performances that have never been seen anywhere; a never before seen performance between Big Jack and Sir Mack Rice of “Mustang Sally” and “Cheaper To Keep Her” fame; and footage of Big Jack’s only TV appearance.
The CD opens with “Honest I Do”, the first of its three Jimmy Reed covers and also the first of three never released anywhere tracks. Once you hear his vocal style, along with those piercing high-end harp leads, you’ll quickly understand the influence Jimmy had on Big Jack. With Larry, Johnny and Slim in that repetitive rhythm groove that so fit this song, Jack’s not the only one with the Jimmy vibe going on. Nicely done cover.
If you’re going to cover a B B King song and you really want to do it justice then do it with horns. Being the only track featuring the Cobra Twist Horns, that’s exactly what the guys did on their rendition of “Rock Me Baby”. With Big Jack at his suave best on the vocals; HiFi and Slim right in the pocket on the rhythm; and Larry laying down the blues guitar leads; it’s the horns – with a stellar standout by “Nationwide” on the sax – that give this one its soul.
Unlike most of the tracks, an original titled “Gonna Love Somebody” is an acoustic solo track featuring Big Jack singing, playing harp and legitimizing his place as a real deal blues/roots artist.
“Made It Up In Your Mind”, a track Big Jack collaborated on, is also unlike anything else on the disc. It sounds like a duo that’s featuring the big guy singing and blowin’ harp with a pumped-up conga/bongo player providing quite progressive percussion.
One of the disc’s rockers, another of Jack’s originals and part of that shoebox full of stuff found in a storage closet somewhere – is called “I Had A Little Dog”. Obviously, from an earlier point in his career, Jacks sounding quite spry on this organ-led, rhythm fueled dance floor filler.
The disc closes with Jack doing another original solo titled “She Must Be A Millionaire”. The interesting thing about this song is why the big guy thinks she’s rich. Ya see, according to Jack… “Her father was a millionaire, I can tell by the way she walks”. More importantly, though he also wants you to know… “That little girl is something and she’s really fine. Yep, she really is something and you’d better know she’s mine.”
The documentary DVD is highly entertaining. The footage was reminiscent of stuff you’ll have seen on the old Ed Sullivan Show, Hullabaloo and Shindig but with a restored sound quality that was was absolutely outstanding. Along with interviews of band members, you’ll hear what Eddie Shaw, Harmonica Shah, and others had to say about the often fun to play with and sometimes not fun to play with, Big Jack.
This very well produced, very well engineered and mastered CD/DVD set is loaded with real deal, old school blues, lots of informative and educational clips and photos and is a must-have for any true blues aficionado.
To get a copy of “That’s A Good Way To Get To Heaven” contact John Henry at the label’s website – www.thirdstreetcigarrecords.com. You can also learn more about Big Jack Reynolds by going to www.bigjackreynolds.com and you can search his name on FB where John has a page set up under his name. As usual, when you talk to John, please tell him the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient