Stonewall Jackson, Grand Ole Opry star for over 60 years, dies at 89


Stonewall Jackson, the honky-tonk singer who overcame an abusive and harsh childhood and pursued a long and successful career in country music, including more than 60 years as a cast member of the Grand Ole Opry, died on Saturday. He was 89 years old.

His death, after battling vascular dementia, was announced by the Opry. He didn’t say where he died.

In the book “From the Bottom Up: The Stonewall Jackson Story as Told in His Own Words” (1991), Mr. Jackson stated that his stepfather, an angry sharecropper named James Leviner, had often abused him, hoisting him up once well above. his head and throwing him against a rock.

Another time, Mr Jackson wrote, his stepfather beat him and left him lying unconscious in a field after the boy accidentally spilled a bucket of water he was carrying.

“The physical scars and pain of being abused don’t last long,” Mr. Jackson said, “but the mental part goes on and on.”

Mr. Jackson’s 1962 recording “A Wound Time Can’t Erase,” a Top 10 country hit written by Bill D. Johnson, was a reminder of this early trauma.

“Is it the power that you have gained for the things that you have done?” What you’ve won, I guess I’ll never see, ”wonders Mr. Jackson aloud, his heartache tuned to the record’s catchy beats and clean production.

“A Wound Time Can’t Erase” was the 11th in a series of 23 consecutive top 40 country singles for Mr. Jackson from 1958 to 1965. It then went on to have a streak of eight consecutive Top 40 country hits. from 1966 to 1968, and eventually placed 44 singles on the country charts before the hits were released in 1973.

“Waterloo,” a catchy ditty written by John D. Loudermilk and Marijohn Wilkin, was his biggest record, occupying No. 1 on the country chart for five weeks in 1959 and rising to the Top 10 pop. “BJ the DJ”, his other number. 1 country single, began its rise in the charts towards the end of 1963.

Most of Mr. Jackson’s recordings have been made in the traditional style known as hard country: a lean, messy tone accented by a lively violin and steel guitar. Eleven of his singles, including “Life to Go”, a prisoner’s lament written by George Jones, and “I Washed My Hands in Muddy Water”, a Top 20 pop hit for Johnny Rivers in 1966, reached the Top 10 country .

Stonewall Jackson was born on November 6, 1932 in Emerson, North Carolina. His biological father, a railroad engineer named Waymond David Jackson, wanted him to be named Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, the Confederate general from whom he claimed to have been descended, but he died of complications from a hernia before. the birth of Stonewall, the third of her three boys.

Mr Jackson’s mother, née Lulu Loraine Turner, remarried after her father’s death.

Fearing for their safety, Mr Jackson’s mother eventually left her sons ‘abusive stepfather and moved the family to Georgia, where they lived in a cabin on the farm of the boys’ paternal grandmother and her. husband. Stonewall was working in the fields and chopping wood there before he was 10 years old.

Hoping to escape the drudgery of sharecropping, Mr Jackson, who received little education, lied about his age and joined the military at the age of 16. He was fired as soon as the deception was discovered.

The following year he enlisted in the Navy, where he served on the Kittiwake underwater rescue ship and began honing his skills as a guitarist and songwriter. Four years later, he returned to Georgia to cultivate a small plot before moving to Nashville to try his luck as a songwriter.

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Despite his many successful records, Mr. Jackson’s biggest claim to fame was his six-decade run on the Grand Ole Opry. He remains the only singer to have been invited to join the cast of Opry before releasing a record, let alone a hit.

Mr Jackson recalled that in 1956, on his first visit to Nashville, he unexpectedly showed up at the Acuff-Rose Music offices in hopes of securing a songwriting contract. . Wesley Rose, son of Fred Rose, the Acuff-Rose executive who debuted Hank Williams, invited Mr. Jackson to do a demo recording and was impressed with the results.

“He called WSM, the radio station that owns and operates the Grand Ole Opry, and told them about me,” Mr. Jackson said in the cover notes of the 1972 compilation “The World of Stonewall Jackson”. “He asked if they would set up an audition for me the next day and asked if I would like to try for the Opry.”

In 2007, Mr. Jackson’s relationship with the show deteriorated when he sued Gaylord Entertainment, Opry’s parent company, for age discrimination after his appearances on the show were curtailed. to make room for younger artists. The lawsuit was settled, for an undisclosed amount, in October 2008, and Mr. Jackson resumed performing on the show.

Information on his survivors was not immediately available. His wife, Juanita Wair Jackson, died in 2019.


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