American bluesman Preacher Jack’s boogie-woogie piano playing blew fans away at his 69th birthday gig and his performance has been viewed more than 12 million times on YouTube. The veteran pianist plays his song “Jessie’s Boogie Woogie” at the show, rocking out the demanding piece while also entertaining the crowd with stage banter.
Preacher Jack, who was born John Lincoln Coughlin, played the show at the Granite Rail in Quincy, Massachusetts, which is not far from where he grew up in Malden, Massachusetts. In his heyday in the 1970s Preacher Jack was scouted by famous blues frontman George Thorogood and was subsequently signed to Rounder Records, for which he produced five studio albums. Listen to his performance below.
Preacher Jack was born on February 12, 1942, and went to meet the Lord on August 25, 2021, at age 79. The piano man initially became an underground success by regularly playing in the Boston area. After signing to Rounder Records he kicked off his recording career with his 1979 debut Rock ‘n’ Roll Preacher. He recorded his second album the following year and then took a lengthy break from recording new material until the mid-1990s.
In the viral video for his 69th birthday, Preacher Jack is seen playing in a two-piece band, with just a drummer for his rhythm section. With such a mean left hand, the veteran performer had no need for a bassist that night. However, in the 1970s, he did work in a full band format, as you can see in the video below, where Preacher Jack plays with a four-piece rock band during a Boston TV appearance. He really turns up the stage show for this fiery appearance.
Preacher Jack is a real character and a natural entertainer as you can see in the videos. True to his name, Preacher Jack does like to give a little rock and roll sermon during his performances. It’s not quite the same type of sermon you’d hear at a church on Sunday morning, but there are some common themes, such as giving thanks to Jesus and the recurring motif of love.
Preacher Jack’s performances are defined by his wild, rhythmic piano playing and charismatic stage banter. In addition to this, he’s also an excellent blues singer with his booming and expressive voice.
The bluesman had the benefit of being given a leg up in the industry by George Thorogood, who is known for his hit song “Bad to the Bone” with his band The Destroyers. However, despite his huge talent, Preacher Jack never quite made it to the big time. After his first two studio albums on Rounder Records, he continued to release music via other independent record labels, with his follow-up albums arriving in 1996, 1998 and 2007, with the latter being his final studio album. Preacher Jack’s style is very old school and traditional, so perhaps it wasn’t quite the right hip sound to find its way to major label success at the time. If you would like to see more from Preacher Jack, you can subscribe to his YouTube channel.