Burl C. "Jaybird" Coleman was born in Gainseville, Alabama in 1896, the son of a sharecropper he was one of four children. As a child of twelve, he taught himself how to play harmonic, and used his new skill to entertain family and friends.
Coleman began performing the blues as an entertainer for American soldiers while serving in the Army during World War I. It was during this time that he was given the nickname "Jaybird" because of his independant nature.
After his discharge, he moved to the Birmingham, Alabama area. While he lived in Birmingham, he would perform on street corners and occasionally play with the Birmingham Jug Band. Between 1927 and 1930, he recorded eleven sides, appearing in the rather unusual role of harmonica player accompanying his own vocals. Of all recorded blues harmonica players, Coleman developed probably the richest and most varied tone. He was largely inactive after 1930, playing mostly on street corners, and died in Tuskegee, Alabama in 1950.
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