LEGENDARY SINGER STILL LOVES HANK
By Gerald Hodges
One of Hank Williams most devoted fans at this year's Hank Williams Festival in Georgiana, Alabama will be legendary country singer, Stonewall Jackson.
"Tell them I'm coming with a truck full of songs, and a heart full of love," said Jackson. "Hank has always been my favorite country singer. I've done two tributes to him, because I've always loved his music.
"I grew up on his songs and sang them all the time. Wherever I went I was singing a Hank Williams tune. I would even sing them when I was plowing barefoot, behind a mule. Fortunately, the mule had one ear that pointed forward, and one ear that pointed backwards. That way he only had to listen to half of what I was singing."
Stonewall was born in Tabor City, North Carolina, but his father died when he was two years old, and his mother moved the family to south Georgia. During this time, while growing up on a farm, Stonewall developed a love for poetry.
"I was just a small kid when I first heard Hank, but his music has always stuck with me," continued Jackson. "When I was about eight or nine years old, I started to write poetry. I would write poetry in school, and sometimes the teacher would let me read it.
"Pretty soon I began to run with some older boys that had guitars. They taught me some chords, and before long I was adding chords to some of my poetry. The first chord book I had come from Sears Roebuck.
"That's how I got started."
After years of hard work, Jackson changed his birth record, and at the age of sixteen joined the Army. It didn't take them long to find out his real age, and he was sent home. However, as soon as he turned seventeen, he joined the Navy and "shipped out."
"I really liked the Navy, and got along well," he said. "The guys on board ship were always asking me to write poems or songs that they could send back home to their girl friends."
By the time he receive his discharge in 1954, he was ready for a singing career. He loaded up his old pickup and drove to Nashville.
When Wesley Rose of Acuff-Rose Publishing Company heard a demo tape that he had made, he sent Stonewall to see his friend, "The Solemn Old Judge," George Hay at WSM.
He joined the Opry in 1956 and became the first and only unknown singer to ever sign the Opry roster.
His breakthrough came in the country Top 40 in late 1958.
"Life To Go," was my first number one song," continued Jackson, "And then there was "Waterloo."
"Waterloo," was number one for weeks and crossed over into the pop charts. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. The song was a haunting and catchy tune that states "Everybody has to meet his Waterloo," meaning their fate.
"Smoke Along The Track" was on the back side of "Waterloo," said Jackson. "It was a great hit also, but being on the back of such a big hit as "Waterloo," it might not have received the playing time that it could have.
"The song that was really as big as "Waterloo" was "B.J., The D.J." It was about an over-worked country music radio station disc jockey, who crashed his car in a rainstorm because of bad tires.
"I had a lot of top-10s. Back then, they put a different song on the back of each record, and quite often, both songs on the record would be in the top-10."
Other big hits of his include "The Carpet On The Floor", "Why I'm Walkin'", "A Wound Time Can't Erase" and "I Washed My Hands in Muddy Water".
From 1958 to 1971, Jackson had 35 Top 40 country hits. Along with Ray Price, Jackson is considered a cornerstone, of the hard-driving honky tonk sound in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
"There were so many people that treated me wonderful," said Jackson. "I remember the first night on the Opry, Porter Wagoner introduced me as "An old boy from Georgia with a heart full of love and sack full of songs."
Jackson, with his easy going style and singing ability caught the eye of Ernest Tubb. Through his friendship with Tubb, he went on to a round of personal appearances, and then signed a contract with Columbia Records.
"I like the old story songs," said Jackson. "But Ernest and a couple other Nashville singers told me that the people would love me for awhile, but I needed to turn loose of the old songs and be myself.
"Ernest took me under his wings, when really, I was of no value to him. He fed me, gave me a place to stay, and even paid me. One day he called me into his dressing room. This was about the time "Life To Go," was at the top of the charts. He said, 'I think it's time for you to go out on your own. You've got a number one song, and you need to get your own group and start lining up some show dates.'
"Well, that's what I did. I got three or four other musicians together and called them "The Rolling Stones." Of course, right about that time, the pop group "Rolling Stones" came along and we had to change the band's name to "Minute Men."
"I've written a lot of songs, mostly good, a few that didn't go over to well, but I had one that sure split a town in half. We were going through the mountains one night in West Virginia. I noticed a single light across the valley on the side of the next mountain. I asked myself, 'could that be a moonshine still?'
"Before daybreak I had the song written. We stopped for breakfast and I called my wife and told her about the new song. She asked what the title was? Since we were in the town of Bluefield, that's what I decided to call it.
"In the West Virginia hills there must be ten thousand stills
And they found the biggest one outside of Bluefield
A little peaceful country town nothing else for miles around
I saw whiskey run like water down through Bluefield
Bluefield, Bluefield, Bluefield, oh Bluefield."
"Well, that really set up quite a stir in that town. There are two radio stations in Bluefield. One played it. The other one refused it.
"I'm a straight country singer. I like to write basic country songs, where you don't have to add filler lines.
"I have been blessed with so much happiness. I love people, and what really turns me on is when I'm with a group that really loves and appreciates the good country songs."
When asked what fans in Georgiana could expect, Jackson replied; "I'm bringing a sack full of my tradional country songs, plus some gospel ones, and a heart full of love."
Stonewall is not a nickname; he was named after, and is a descendant of Confederate Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson.
He lives on a farm in Brentwood, Tennessee with his wife Juanita, who is also his personal manager and operates his song publishing company, Turp Tunes. He has a son, Stonewall Jackson, Jr.