Day 8 – 16 Days of Jackson Classic Ragtime Tune Penned by 16-Year-Old Welcomes Bill Bailey to JACKSON

Community Engagement

Won’t You Come Home

by Bill Bailey

Italy is regarded for its inspiration of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts is the namesake of Henry David Thoreau’s famous novel. Jamaica is known as the birthplace of Bob Marley’s reggae music.People often associate great art with the place it was created. For me, Jackson makes me think of Hughie Cannon’s song, “(Won’t You Come Home) Bill Bailey?”

Zelda Sheldon performs the Jackson classic in Sydney, Australia on her ukulele, 9,405 miles from the song’s origin.

Okay. This old ragtime song probably hasn’t reached Mona Lisa status and of course most people born prior to 1970 have never heard it, but it was created right here in Jackson and Jacksonians take pride in that. Believe me…I’ve heard it from time to time.

In my short tenure here I have had this song sung at me about 50,000 times. When I was growing up in Muskegon this song was sung to me any time I introduced myself to someone familiar with early 20th century jazz, but never as much as I’ve heard it from people in Jackson.

bill bailey

As it was told to me by a proud patron of the BZB Cafe on Mechanic St., who was coincidentally also named Bill,“(Won’t You Come Home) Bill Bailey?” was created in the bars of Frogtown, the area downtown near the Grand River. It was written by a 16-year-old, Detroit native Hughie Cannon, and inspired by trombonist Willard “Bill” Bailey, for whom the song got it’s title. As it goes, Cannon and Bailey frequented the taverns of old Jackson despite Mrs. Bailey’s pleas for her husband to please come home. Cannon was so inspired he produced one of the biggest ragtime hits of his time.

Cannon’s song soon met notoriety as the likes of Louis Armstrong, Patsy Cline, Harry Connick Jr., and most recently Michael Buble immortalized Bailey’s wife’s wishes for her husband to be domesticated. By the 1950s Jackson residents would soon take pride in the ditty that garnered international fame and claimed their city to be the conception point of one of the world’s most famous showtunes.  

Like the Buick, Ritz Cracker, and the Republican Party, “(Won’t You Come Home) Bill Bailey?” is now known as one of Jackson’s great contributions to society. Although the song may not be as great a piece of history as the Grand Old Party or an iconic automobile, Jacksonians to this day brag about the song’s origins in their beloved city.

Of course, no one would know this better than I, Bill Bailey.  I made this city my home five months ago. While I claim  no relationship to the man for which the famous song was named, I do feel  connected to the City of Jackson because of it. I don’t believe a newcomer could ever ask for a better welcoming than to have  a personalized song begging him, “please come home.” Although this song may have been written far before my time, to me it seems very appropriate that it was written in a city so willing to accept outsiders — a special city like no other, our Jackson.

Here’s Brenda Lee’s upbeat version: :

Victory Lane, between Restaurant One Five One and Bella Notte in Downtown Jackson

Victory Lane, between Restaurant One Five One and Bella Notte in Downtown Jackson


Bill Bailey - J.D. McDuffie #70 tribute wheel in Victory Lane

Bill Bailey – J.D. McDuffie #70 tribute wheel in Victory Lane

Think about it … a song written in Jackson has had worldwide impact spanning four generations, from Louis Armstrong to Brenda Lee to The Jetsons to The Simpsons, even The Smurfs!  A 16-year-old songwriter’s simple song will live on and continue to thrive in our continually recycled, inspiring American culture.


16 Days of Jackson – Day ONE

Community Engagement

16 Days of Jackson

From day one, my experiences in Jackson, Michigan have been full of small world confirmation connections; wonderful natural nourishment in the form of outdoor experiences, music, art and Jackson culture; true stories of innovative service unique to the Cool City in South Central Michigan; and everyday people who have survived, thrived and creatively derived aspects of the best community in the world.

Over 16 Days in December, a small group of Jackson residents will share stories, images and personal passions to state the case for our great community. This social media experiment sprouted from the “How Jackson of You” movement.

You can find my “How Jackson of You” message at

Cool Color

Today, I watched the Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison documentary. I have listened to his music for most of my life, but his work has been central in my experiences throughout 2013. My move from Northern California to Jackson — just ahead of the turbulent weather that triggered the May 20th devastating EF5 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma — included six CDs loaded and looped for the whole 2,259-mile road trip. After hours of white-knuckle driving, I finally approached Jackson County. Just after Spring Arbor, for what was probably the 20th time of the car journey, this song and these lyrics sung by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash welcomed me to Jackson, Michigan:


We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout,
We’ve been talkin’ ’bout Jackson, ever since the fire went out.
I’m goin’ to Jackson, I’m gonna mess around,
Yeah, I’m goin’ to Jackson,
Look out Jackson town.

Well, go on down to Jackson; go ahead and wreck your health.
Go play your hand you big-talkin’ man, make a big fool of yourself,
You’re goin’ to Jackson; go comb your hair!
Honey, I’m gonna snowball Jackson.
See if I care.

When I breeze into that city, people gonna stoop and bow. (Hah!)
All them women gonna make me, teach ’em what they don’t know how,
I’m goin’ to Jackson, you turn-a loose-a my coat.
‘Cos I’m goin’ to Jackson.
“Goodbye,” that’s all she wrote.

But they’ll laugh at you in Jackson, and I’ll be dancin’ on a Pony Keg.
They’ll lead you ’round town like a scalded hound,
With your tail tucked between your legs,
You’re goin’ to Jackson, you big-talkin’ man.
And I’ll be waitin’ in Jackson, behind my Jaypan Fan,

Well now, we got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper Sprout,
We’ve been talkin’ ’bout Jackson, ever since the fire went out.
I’m goin’ to Jackson, and that’s a fact.
Yeah, we’re goin’ to Jackson, ain’t never comin’ back.

Well, we got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout’
And we’ve been talkin’ ’bout Jackson, ever since the fire went…

The song “Jackson” has risen in prominence right alongside “Ring of Fire” and “Man in Black” in my music adoration.  Earlier this year, I visited Folsom Prison and spent an afternoon as a special guest of the Youth Diversion Prisoner’s Outreach Program sponsored by Robyn Cole at California State Prison (CSP) Solano in Vacaville, California.

In the same documentary, Johnny greets Glen Sherley on the day of Sherley’s release from CSP Solano.  Here’s the moment when Johnny and Glen met during the Folsom Prison concert prior to Cash’s performance of Sherley’s song “Greystone Chapel”.

Johnny Cash shakes Glen Sherley's hand before performing Sherley's "Greystone Chapel"

Johnny Cash shakes Glen Sherley’s hand before performing Sherley’s “Greystone Chapel”

Johnny’s “Folsom Prison Blues”, “25 Minutes to Go” and “Greystone Chapel” are powerful prison messages for inmates worldwide, including those at Cooper Street Correctional Facility.

The California Medical Facility (CMF), neighbor to CSP Solano, has an active inmate artist program. An original painting by one of the inmates was gifted to me by my friend Laura. It hangs between the two windows in my downtown Jackson apartment looking out over Schupbach’s Sporting Goods and the Grand River.

Beauty out of Ashes: Original art from inmate at California Medical Facility in Vacaville, CA

Beauty out of Ashes: Original art from inmate at California Medical Facility in Vacaville, CA

The 15 subsequent stories in the 16 Days of Jackson will include storytelling involving Jackson institutions, Jackson legends and Jackson masterpieces. The art, nature and intrigue of Day One will continue throughout this community experience.  Watch as it unfolds on your favorite social media outlet.

Autumn in Jackson, Michigan

MI, Nature

As I experience each new autumn day in Jackson, I’m amazed at how much the sunlight and colors of fall entrance me and engage my attention.  This preternatural connection to nature brings added benefits to my holistic health.  I walk outside much more.  I breathe deeper breaths, smelling the scents of autumn as I breathe in and pushing out stress as I breathe out.  I engage in conversation with local residents.  Every new face is a lovable strangers to me, the true stranger, the outsider, the foreigner.

Time and time again, day after day after day, someone in Jackson blows me away with their kindness.  So often, I sense genuine interest in meeting me — that new person from somewhere else.  On October 7, 2013 I experienced a Jackson moment, for me the new signature Jackson moment.

I attempted to order two coney dogs and a large root beer float from the Cascades Ice Cream Company.  I don’t carry cash these days and I realized with a small, seasonal operation, I might be in for an “unable to pay” surprise.  I asked “do you accept debit or credit cards?”  The response from the pleasant 20-something server was a bright “we don’t, but we’re getting the machine for next year”.  She added, “but you can pay tomorrow or later this weekend.”  With shock I offered this incredulous reply “Well, here’s my card so you know who I am.  By the way, I encourage you to come out at walk the trails at Dahlem.  It’s so beautiful this time of year.”  She replied with a smile, “I went there last year with my son’s class on a field trip!”

Here’s the IOU reminder, which I will bring with me to pay my $8.25 debt today:



And here are samples of the beautiful things you’ll find on walks on Dahlem’s trails this season…







For those of you who enjoy walking outside in downtown Jackson, here are several images for you from October, 2013







Autumn Blessings!

Come walk the trails at Dahlem with me this season,