Jackie Washington's seven-decade career as a performer enriched the cultural life of his native Hamilton and earned him recognition across Canada.
Born in Hamilton, Jackie Washington made his performing debut at age 5 in a duet with his brother Ormsby in 1924. Soon after, a quartet consisting of Jackie and Ormsby joined by siblings Harold and Doc performed at church socials and company parties. During this time, Jackie learned to play the guitar, and after 1930, the piano. In the early 1940s, Jackie performed on CKOC along with Sonny Johnston as the Personality Boys. Still, music could not provide a living for the young performer, and Jackie worked as a CPR sleeping car attendant, factory worker, washroom attendant and as operator of a shoeshine stand at Fort Erie Racetrack. During this time, Jackie continued to develop his growing repertoire of songs and to entertain his bosses and fellow workers.
Jackie's musical career was greatly advanced in 1964 when folk music promoter Bill Powell introduced Washington to Toronto's Yorkville music scene.
In June 1976, Jackie Washington released his first album - Blues and Sentimental. In 1983, Jackie makes his film debut, appearing in Sneezy Waters movie Hank Williams - The Show He Never Gave. He also performed on CBC Radio and Television.
In November 1984, Jackie Washington received the Hamilton Arts Award. In 1989, after diabetes resulted in the loss of a foot, he was honoured at a benefit concert in Toronto which was attended by over 30 luminaries from the Canadian music scene.
Despite his health problems, Jackie Washington continued to perform. He missed only one of the 20 Festivals of Friends held between 1975 and 1995. Jackie Washington was also a regular at London's Home County Festival. He was nominated for a Juno Award in 1993 for Best Roots & Traditional album, along with Ken Whiteley and Mose Scarlett, for their album Where Old Friends Meet. In 1995, Jackie Washington was inducted into Hamilton's Gallery of Distinction for having brought joy to thousands of his fans and for the remarkable example he set with his tolerance and good cheer.
Jackie Washington was inducted into the Canadian Jazz & Blues Hall of Fame in 2002. Colin Linden of Blackie & The Rodeo Kings paid tribute to Jackie with the song “Jackie