Shakey (or Shakin') Jake Woods, a great storyteller and guitarist, a true legend of Ann Arbor, Michigan, passed away last Sunday, September 16, 2007, at the age of 82. Or maybe he was 106, you never really knew for sure with Jake. He didn't know how to tune a guitar, and sometimes his guitar had only one, two, or even no strings at all. But somehow this all didn't matter, he certainly had the spirit of the blues. Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Jake moved to Saginaw, Michigan, and finally to Ann Arbor after playing a hugely successful 5-minute gig at the Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1973. If you have ever spent more than a few hours in Ann Arbor in the last 34 years, you have probably met Jake or heard people talk about him. Shakey Jake will be missed, but his legend lives on. Here are a few links for you to check out:
An older blog post I wrote with three MP3s from his one and only CD On The Move. Several people who knew Jake left comments.
The Ann Arbor News looks back on Jake's life, and tons of people who knew Jake left comments.
Some University of Michigan students made this absolutely amazing video (YouTube video) about Jake. Here he says he was born on Halloween in the year 1900.
Saginaw residents still remember Jake fondly, and there is a Shakey Jake Blues Festival happening next week, September 29.
Fun facts (all according to Jake himself): He was born a midget, but when the doctor left the room, he grew six inches; he traveled around the world dozens of times, but never in an airplane; and he wrote "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot".
We will let Jake have the last word: "There's 88 notes on the guitar. I knows 'em all."