Brother Jack’s Barbecue in Knoxville Tennessee (building to the right)

Charles Andrew Jackson aka Brother Jack (b.1894) opened his barbecue shack on University Avenue in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1946. Jack had made his bones as a butcher and just like many a meat man saw barbecue as a natural extension of his trade.

Bro Jack’s Place was long-closed by the time I started making my way around the mid-south exploring the smoked meat houses of the region. And there’s precious little information out there on Brother Jack and his landmark invention: the pigsburger.

Shallots is the nom de guerre of a lady who formerly posted on an east Tennessee food board. We went back and forth online for years and she was an excellent resource for digging up old-timey eateries and smoke houses. She had this to say about Brother Jack’s:

From 1971-1979 I probably spent more time at Bro Jacks than 20 UT students, and I was rewarded for my worship of the Pigsburger with an invitation to come watch Tip (Bro Jack) prep for opening one afternoon where we made sauce and patted out some pigsburgers.

Anyway, much to my surprise he didnt haul a carcass or a dead cat/dog/possum out of the trunk of his car as was the local legend. He merely flipped over a couple of sides of St Louis ribs and cut off the big hunk of meat on the back and salt and peppered it and threw it in a grinder. Then after taking a pull on the Old Stillwell that he kept in his back pocket he grabbed a handful of meat, rolled it into a ball and threw it down on the cutting board. G… if it didnt make a perfect patty when it made contact with his board that btw hadnt been cleaned since WWII.

He would cook these things a long time. If it was a hamburger I would say they were XXWell Done. He threw these things in an electric skillet with onions that were still there from the day before as was the bacon grease, turned it up to 300 and there you go. I always hated going in there at 3:00AM and having to wait on those …. things to come out of the cooker. They were only $0.50 and the Screamin Sauce was the perfect compliment.

If that doesn’t make your mouth water there is no hope for you.

A JT Boyd posted on the same board regarding Brother Jack’s pigsbugers technique:

A little late to the party, but as a former regular at Brother Jacks, this is how he made a pigsburger: First he would cut all the meat off the back of his spare ribs, grind the meat, salt and pepper, then cook them over medium low heat in an electric skillet full of pigburger grease and onions. He would let these cook for about 30 minutes. Then between two pieces of light bread with his Screamin sauce was pure nirvana. $0.50 apiece.

And the secret ingredient in his sauce was ground ginseng root. Thats what gave it that sweet “what the hell is this” flavor.

Brother Jack’s son Clifford (Tip) would eventually take over the business and he too would become known as Brother Jack. Tip would pass in 1995. Brother Jack’s Barbecue is consigned to the dusty old corners of Knoxville barbecue lore though you may be able to find a bottle of sauce claiming to be “Brother Jack’s” at area grocers.

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  1. Any ideal to the recipe of the sauce ? I had the chance to meet brother jack and once a week my father in law would drive to Jack’s place and get chicken, ribs, and pig burgers. He had really hot pig burgers then regular ones. I couldnt stand the heat so I loved the pig burgers he made. We were so sad when he past away, the burgers they sale are nothing like I remember brother Jack’s to be. But I’ve found a good buther to make the meats so now i need the sauce. Anyone know the recipe

  2. Maybe not a million dollars, but I met a man, long ago, who said his boss had offered Brother Jack (Tip, by that time, having inherited that name) $20,000 for the recipe, and Tip would not oblige him.

  3. I’ve tried twice to leave a comment, but it’s not showing up. I knew Brother Jack––both of them––pretty well, and my friend the late Karl Wagner, world-famous writer of horror and fantasy, was a good friend and mentioned him and his establishment in his writing. I’ll not elaborate at this point since I don’t expect to be able to post even this.

      • The real, brown sauce, bottled by YAM under consultation with Tip’s brother Jeep, was available in Food City groceries for a couple of years. A later version, red in color, was available at Chicken City a few years back; it tasted nothing like the sauce I remember so fondly.

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