Born Alan Eugene Jackson on October 17, 1958 in Newnan, GA; son of Eugene (an autoworker) and Ruth Jackson; sisters: Diane, Connie, and twins Cathy and Carol; married Denise, December 15, 1979; children: Mattie (born June 19, 1990), Alexandra (born August 23, 1993) and Dani (born August 28, 1993). Addresses: Home-Nashville, TN. Fan Club-P.O. Box 121945, Nashville, TN.
Traditions are sometimes forgotten in favor of the new and improved. In the early 1980s, the weeds of a fad--the synthesized pop music of the urban cowboy--had trampled country music's roots. However, in 1989 a new group of country singer/songwriters, including a tall, white-hatted Georgia boy named Alan Jackson, tore out those weeds and planted a new tradition. Over the next fifteen years, Jackson would hit number one on the country music charts over 30 times and win over 45 awards, nearly losing his twenty-year marriage to his high school sweetheart, Denise, along the way. However, Jackson remained humble, telling twangthis.com that he was "just a guy who sings [and who] hopes I'm keeping a little bit of traditional country music alive for the next generation so they'll know what it is."
Alan Eugene Jackson was born on October 17, 1958 in Newnan, Georgia. His father, Eugene, an autoworker, and mother, Ruth, a homemaker married in 1952 and moved into Eugene's dad's 12 foot by 12 foot tool shed. As their family expanded to seven--Alan and his sisters Diane, Connie, and twins Cathy and Carol--so did the tool shed. While still in high school, Jackson met his future wife, Denise, at a Dairy Queen. He married his sweetheart in 1979. Soon after, they moved to Nashville so Jackson could pursue his music career. While Denise worked as a flight attendant, Jackson worked odd jobs including used car salesman and mailman for cable TV's The Nashville Network (TNN). During his lunch breaks Jackson would study what type of country music hit the charts, what fans liked and what they were buying.
In the early 1980s, country music fans seemed to like and buy the bland, "pop-ified" country music of the urban cowboy while everyone else seemed to be riding bucking broncos in bars, wearing cowboy boots, hats, and tight blue jeans. Country music, according to Country Weekly reporter Gerry Wood, "got very plasticized strings everywhere. traditional roots were just getting ground under like plowed ground." As the 1980s urban cowboy fad cooled off, as stated by Ken Kragen on TNN's The Life and Times of the All-star Class of '89, "country music started to retrench and almost as a reaction against this popularizing of country music, traditionalists came along." One of these new traditionalists was Alan Jackson. However, it would be Denise, Jackson's wife, not Jackson himself who found his big break. On one of Denise's flights, she ran into country superstar Glen Campbell. She told him about Jackson's desire to be a country singer/songwriter and asked Campbell for advice. Campbell gave Denise the name of his company's manager, Marty Gamblin, and told Jackson to call. Soon after, Gamblin hired Jackson to write songs for Glen Campbell Enterprises. Thus, a chance meeting on an airplane had started Jackson's career.
Icing On The Cake
By the late 1980s, country music fans had enough of the synthesized pop that was passing for country music. A new class of country music superstars--musicians who sounded a lot like country music legends Hank Williams, Faron Young, Merle Haggard, and George Jones--emerged, led by Randy Travis. In 1989, seeing this return to tradition, record labels signed their own "new traditionalists" including Clint Black, Travis Tritt, Vince Gill, Garth Brooks, and Alan Jackson. In 1990, Jackson saw the release of his first album, Here in the Real World on Arista Records, as well as the birth of his first daughter, Mattie. Here in the Real World produced four number one singles including the title track, "Wanted," "Chasin' That Neon Rainbow," and "I'd Love You All Over Again." Jackson also won two major awards that year: TNN/Music City News Song of the Year for "Here in the Real World," and the Academy of Country Music (ACM) for Top New Male Vocalist.
In 1991, Jackson released his second album, Don't Rock the Jukebox. Five songs, four of which Jackson wrote or co-wrote, topped the country music charts: "Someday," "Dallas," "Love's Got a Hold on You," "Midnight in Montgomery," and the title track. In two of these number one hits, Jackson paid respect to his musical inspirations--Hank Williams and George Jones. "Midnight in Montgomery" honors the legendary country singer/songwriter Williams. In "Don't Rock the Jukebox," Jackson wrote what Country Music Culture's Curtis W. Ellison called, "a homage to George Jones--another Hank Williams admirer--and to honky tonk music, a statement against rock and roll in favor of country music." Jackson won four awards that year including TNN/Music City News Star of Tomorrow and Album of the Year, and ACM's Country Music Single and Album of the Year.
In 1992, Jackson's success continued with two new albums: Honky Tonk Christmas and A Lot 'Bout Livin' (and a Little 'Bout Love), the latter producing five number one hit singles including "Chattahoochee." Jackson not only won five awards that year including CMA Music Video of the Year, ASCAP Song of the Year, and TNN/Music City News Male Artist, Single, and Album of the Year, but also welcomed another baby daughter, Alexandra.
In 1994, Jackson's fifth album, Who I Am was released. This album, according to Entertainment Weekly music reviewer Alanna Nash, seemed to "show him to be more emotionally vulnerable." With hits like "Let's Get Back to Me and You" and "Job Description," Nash believed that "seldom has a star made his life away from home sound so lonely." Thus, for the first time, Jackson seemed to be feeling the pressures of success. Jackson told People magazine that "[My career] is like a movie or something [and my home] is more like the real world for me, in the woods with my family." He further commented that "[he was] realizing that all those things that you wanted so bad aren't gonna make you happy or keep you happy." In the same vein, Jackson told People that he realized that "my life is really like a fairy tale [and] you gotta be happy with yourself and with your spouse and with your life. All the rest is just icing on the cake." Jackson won 10 awards in 1994 including ASCAP Song and Songwriter of the Year as well as ACM Top Male Vocalist and American Music Awards Favorite Album and Single of the Year.
Separated, Reconciled, and "High Mileage"
Throughout the mid-to-late 1990s, Jackson's star continued to burn brightly. In 1995, Jackson released his Greatest Hits album and won eight major awards including CMA Entertainer of the Year. In 1996 Jackson released his seventh album, Everything I Love, his first album of all new material in three years. This album included the number one single "Little Bitty," written by songwriting great Tom T. Hall, which told people to enjoy life "because it goes on only for a little bitty while." Speaking on his approach to music, Jackson told twangthis.com that "I just try to have fun with it and pick songs and write songs that I like. I don't really worry about what's going to happen to it commercially." Country music fans loved what Jackson liked and awarded him TNN/Music City News Entertainer of the Year in 1996 and 1997. Dani, Jackson's third daughter was also born in 1997. Thus, Jackson's music career and home life seemed to be on a solid ground, however, what Jackson loved most--his family--was crumbling.
In February 1998, USA Today announced that Jackson and Denise had separated. Jackson told USA Today's Brian Mansfield that "what was happening was, I couldn't be happy. I kept trying to let everything else make me happy. Maybe that's why I'm successful. I worked so hard to get all this stuff to make me happy." Jackson continued, "Then that didn't do it. It actually got worse. This career added other problems to it. I isolated myself more." After months of therapy, Jackson and Denise reconciled and renewed their wedding vows on December 15, their nineteenth wedding anniversary. Denise told Life that "I see that separation as a gift. It forced us to put our attention back on our relationship." Jackson told Life that "I realize what makes you happy: It's having someone to love and someone who loves you."
In September 1998, Jackson released his eighth album, High Mileage. Life called this album, "an ode to marriage" while country.com stated that "the album is Jackson's take on life's latest chapter both the home runs and the curve balls as it came rushing to him." High Mileage's first single, "I'll Go On Loving You," written by Kieran Kane, "is sure to set tongues wagging," Mansfield said, because, "[it] is a markedly different sound for Jackson [who] recites much of the song's intimate lyrics in which the singer watches his lover step out of her dress, yet speaks of a love that will last after the passing 'pleasures of the flesh.'"
Jackson's ninth album, Under the Influence, appeared in 1999, followed byWhen Somebody Loves You late in 2000. Also in 2000 Jackson generated controversy and attracted media attention when he collaborated with George Strait on the incriminating song, "Murder on Music Row," which bemoans the commercialization of the country music industry.
Perhaps Jackson's biggest and most poignant hit so far is "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)." A tribute to the events of 9/11, the song appeared in two forms on Jackson's album Drive, released in 2002. The album included a studio version of the song, as well as a live version recorded at the Country Music Awards just two months after the attacks. The title song for the album was a tribute to Jackson's late father, Eugene, who had recently died. That song, "Drive (for Daddy Gene)," became a hit single, just like "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)."
In 2004, Jackson released his 14th album, What I Do. Once again, Jackson's heartfelt baritone, combined with his extraordinary ability to write good songs, turned the album into a platinum success. It debuted at the top of the Billboard country and pop album charts and was popular due to its great mix of variety. Jackson recorded love songs like "Too Much of a Good Thing," as well as lighter, funnier songs, like "If French Fries Were Fat Free."
In 2005, Jackson planned to take the album to fans live by going on tour. He was to be accompanied by Sara Evans and a new music duo, The Wrights, which included Jackson's nephew Adam Wright and his wife, Shannon. Jackson was expecting sell-out crowds, much like during his previous tour. For all his success, Jackson remains down to earth: "A lot of times when you get to the level I'm at now, [people think you're] this big star and there's something magical about you," he told Billboard's Deborah Evans Price,
by Ann M. Schwalboski
Alan Jackson's Career
Hired by Glen Campbell Enterprises as a songwriter until he signed to Arista Records in 1989; released first album, Here in the Real World; 1990, the title song becomes number one hit; became member of the Grand Ole Opry, 1991; success continued over the next 12 years with 13 more albums that included a total of over thirty number one hits such as "Midnight in Montgomery," "Chattahoochee," "Little Bitty," "I'll Go on Loving You," and "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)"; opened the Alan Jackson Showcar Cafe in Pigeon Forge, TN, 1998.
Alan Jackson's Awards
Academy of Country Music (ACM) Top New Male Vocalist, 1990; TNN/Music City News Star of Tomorrow, 1991; ACM Country Music Album of the Year, 1991; Country Music Association (CMA) Music Video of the Year, 1992; CMA Single of the Year, 1993; ASCAP Songwriter of the Year, 1993, 1994, 1998, 2003; American Music Awards (AMA) Favorite Album, 1994; CMA Entertainer of the Year, 1995, 2001, 2002, 2003; ACM Male Vocalist of the Year, 1995, 1996, 2002; TNN/Music City News Entertainer of the Year, 1996, 1997; CMA Vocal Event of the Year, 2000; CMA Album of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, Music Video of the Year, 2001; CMA Best Male Vocalist and Album of the Year for Drive and Single of the Year and Song of the Year, both for "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)," 2002; ACM Song of the Year and Single of the Year for "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)," 2002; CMA Male Vocalist of the Year and Vocal Event of the Year for "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere," a duet with Jimmy Buffet, 2003; Grammy Award for Best Country Song for "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)," 2003; Grammy Award for Best Country Song for "It's Five O'clock Somewhere," 2004.
- Selected discography
- Here in the Real World , Arista Records, 1990.
- Don't Rock the Jukebox , Arista Records, 1991.
- Honky Tonk Christmas , Arista Records, 1992.
- A Lot 'Bout Livin' (and a Little 'Bout Love) , Arista Records, 1992.
- Who I Am , Arista Records, 1994.
- Greatest Hits , Arista Records, 1995.
- Everything I Love , Arista Records, 1996.
- High Mileage , Arista Records, 1998.
- Under the Influence , Arista/Nashville, 1999.
- When Somebody Loves You , Arista/Nashville, 2000.
- Drive , Arista/Nashville, 2002.
- Let it be Christmas , Arista/Nashville, 2002.
- Greatest Hits , Arista/Nashville, 2003.
- What I Do , Arista/Nashville, 2004.
- Very Best Of , Arista/Nashville, 2004.
- Ellison, Curtis, Country Music Culture: From Hard Times to Heaven, University Press Of Mississippi, 1995.
- Billboard, November 13, 1999; May 6, 2000; September 18, 2004.
- Chicago Sun-Times, September 21, 1998.
- Entertainment Weekly, July 7, 1998.
- Good Housekeeping, June 1995.
- Life, February 1999.
- People, Special Issue, 1994; September 20, 2004.
- USA Today, February 20, 1998; September 1, 1998.
- Additional information provided by The Life and Times of the All-Star Class of '89 , a TNN special program broadcast January 25, 1999, and from liner notes from Alan Jackson's albums.