Jaybird Coleman

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Burl C. "Jaybird" Coleman, also known as Rabbit's Foot Williams (born May 20, 1896 in Gainesville, Sumter County - died June 28, 1950 in Tuskegee) was a noted harmonica player of the 1920s and 30s.

Coleman was the son of sharecroppers in Gainesville and was raised on the farm. He taught himself to play harmonica and entertained his fellow soldiers during his army service in World War I. After the war he moved to Birmingham and played on street corners for donations and at parties. With Big Joe Wilson he toured the South as part of the Rabbit Foot Minstels in the mid 1920s before returning to settle down with his wife, Irene, in Bessemer. He took other jobs but continued to play, sometimes accompanied by his sister Lizzie.

Coleman made a group of recordings for Gennett, Silvertone and Black Patti in 1927 and most likely joined the Birmingham Jug Band for their Okeh recording session in 1930. He made a few later recordings for Columbia Records.

Coleman died from cancer at the Tuskegee Veterans Administration Hospital in 1950. He is buried at Lincoln Memorial Gardens in Bessemer.


  • "Jaybird Coleman & the Birmingham Jug Band, 1927-1930: Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order." Document Records. DOCD-5140 (link)


  • Mitchell, Lee (April 2001) "Burl C. Coleman". Alabama Music Hall of Fame Achiever