Gus CannonGus Cannon was born on 12/09/1883 in Red Banks, Mississippi probably. Cannon's tombstone quotes his birth year being 1874. His full birth name was Gustavus Cannon. He was born on a plantation. Cannon would teach himself how to play the banjo using a banjo made of a frying pay and a racoon skin. When he was 15, he ran away from home and began his musical career. He would play at sawmills, levee camps and railroad camps around Mississippi.
Whilst Cannon was in Clarksdale, he would be influenced by Jim Turner and Alec Lee. Turner's fiddle playing in W.C. Handy's band prompted Cannon to learn to play it himself. Lee would teach Cannon to play his first folk blues song, "Po'Boy, Long Ways from Home". He would also teach him how to use a knife blade as a slide, which Cannon would use on the banjo.
In 1907, Cannon left Clarksdale. He moved to Memphis, Tennessee. There he would join a jug band led by Jim Guffin. He would also begin playing alongside Jim Jackson. In Memphis, he would also meet harmonica player Noah Lewis, who introduced him to guitarist Ashley Thompson. Cannon, Lewis and Thompson formed a band to play various parties and dances.
In 1914, Cannon left to tour with medicine shows. He would take on various jobs to support his family such as sharecropping, ditch digging, and yard work in addition to music.
In 1927, Canon began recording under the name Banjo Joe for Paramount Records. In the session, Blind Blake backed him.
The Memphis Jug Band were popular at the time, so Cannon decided to assemble his own band. He recruited Lewis and Thompson again to form Cannon's Jug Stompers. Thompson would be later replaced by Elijah Avery. Cannon with Cannon's Jug Stompers would record songs such as "Minglewood Blues", "Pig Ankle Strut", "Wolf River Blues", "Viola Lee Blues", "White House Station" and "Walk Right In".
In 1928, Cannon's Jug Stompers recorded at the Memphis Auditorium for Victor Records.
In the late 1920s, Horsea Woods joined the band playing the guitar, banjo, kazoo and vocals.
In 1929, Cannon appeared in the film Hallelujah.
In 1930, Cannon's Jug Stompers made their last recording.
By the late 1930's Cannon had effectively retired from music.
In 1956, Cannon made a few recordings for Folkways Records.
In the 1960s blues revival, Cannon made a few college and coffee house appearances with Furry Lewis and Bukka White. Cannon had financial problems and had to pawn his banjo to pay a heating bill.
In 1962, his finances turned around when The Rooftop Singers had a hit with Cannon's song "Walk Right In".
In 1963, Cannon recorded an album Stax Records with Will Shade and Milton Roby.
On 15/10/1979, Cannon passed away in Memphis, Tennessee.