Multiple Grammy award winner, Carl Jackson, was born in the small town of Louisville, Mississippi on September 18, 1953. By the time he was eight years old, thanks to his father’s influence and a burning desire inside, he was already well on his way to being an accomplished musician.
At age fourteen, after playing backstage at a local concert for Jim and Jesse McReynolds, he was asked to be a Virginia Boy by the bluegrass greats and soon found himself on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. He played banjo for Jim and Jesse for almost five years before joining The Sullivan Family for a short time as a guitarist. Carl then broke away and journeyed to Columbus, Ohio to form a group called “The Country Store” with close friends Jimmy Gaudreau, Bill Rawlins, and the late Keith Whitley. The band in its original form would last little more than a week, for just around the corner lay another big break for the boy from the hills of Mississippi.
Glen Campbell came into town to play the state fair and being huge fans of his, Carl and Keith went out to see the show. Afterwards they ran into Glen’s banjo player, Larry McNeely, who persuaded Carl to come by the next day for a jam session. After picking for a while, Larry suddenly told Carl he had been looking for someone to take his place with Glen because he was tired of traveling and that Carl was the man. Larry took him to meet and play for Campbell and Glen hired him on the spot. For the next twelve years, Glen featured Carl everywhere he went as “the greatest banjo player in the world”.
During his years with Glen, Carl started to concentrate on his vocal and songwriting abilities as well as his musicianship. He recorded two albums for Capitol Records, (“Carl Jackson: Banjo Player” and “Old Friends“), three for Sugar Hill, (“Banjo Man: A Tribute To Earl Scruggs“, “Song Of The South“, and “Banjo Hits“), and then in 1984 his signing with Columbia Records produced a couple of top forty country songs, (“She’s Gone, Gone, Gone” and “Dixie Train“).
It was at this time that Carl made the decision to leave Glen Campbell and strike out on his own. It has turned out to be a very wise one. As a vocalist, you can hear him on recordings with the likes of EmmyLou Harris, Dwight Yoakam, Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, Steve Wariner, Garth Brooks, Janie Fricke, Dolly Parton, Sweethearts Of The Rodeo, Marsha Thornton, John Anderson, Mac Davis, Pam Tillis, Radney Foster, Joe Diffie, Rebecca Lynn Howard, Holly Dunn, Glen Campbell, Lorrie Morgan, Martina McBride, Marty Stuart, Ken Mellons, Tammy Wynette, Hank Williams Jr., Rodney Crowell, Mike Reid, James Bonemy, Mindy McReady, Linda Ronstadt, Keith Whitley, George Jones, Rhonda Vincent, Patty Loveless, Ricky Van Shelton, Shawn King, Ashley Monroe, Alecia Nugent, Mark Newton, Bradley Walker, Travis Tritt, Merle Haggard, Jon Randall, Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley, Joey + Rory or Roger Miller just to name a few; or you may hear a Jackson song recorded by such artists as Glen Campbell (“Letter to Home“), Wild Rose (“Breaking New Ground“), Pam Tillis (“Put Yourself In My Place“), Garth Brooks (“Against The Grain” & “Fit For A King“), Trisha Yearwood (“Lonesome Dove“), Diamond Rio (“Close To The Edge“), Patty Loveless (“You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are“), Steve Wariner (“The Same Mistake Again“), Vince Gill (“Real Lady’s Man“), Daron Norwood (“My Girl Friday“), Rhonda Vincent (“I’m Not Over You“), Mike Snider, The Seldom Scene, Charly McLain, Nancy Sinatra, The Chuck Wagon Gang, Bobbie Cryner, The Lewis Family, Keith Stegall, Tony Rice, Red Steagal, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Ricky Skaggs, The Whites, lllrd Tyme Out, The Rarely Herd, Alecia Nugent, Continental Divide, The McCarters, The Country Gentlemen, Mark Newton, Johnny Paycheck, Rebecca Lynn Howard, Mel Tillis, Bradley Walker, Jim & Jesse, Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time, Jon Randall, Ricky Lynn Gregg, Mountain Heart, Terri Clark, The Oak Ridge Boys, Brad Paisley, Marty Raybon, Joe Diffie or The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Carl’s work can even be heard at baseball and football games as he has penned theme songs and jingles for the California Angels (“California 9 to 5“), (“Dreams“) and (“Something To Shout About“) and the Ole Miss Rebels (“ ‘Neath The Oaks In The Grove“).
Jackson’s “Little Mountain Church House” was voted the 1990 International Bluegrass Music Association song of the year and a more recent version by George Hamilton IV was a 2005 Dove Award nominee for bluegrass song of the year. On February 25th, 1992, for his album with John Starling entitled “Spring Training”, Carl was awarded his first Grammy. A few months later he received a Dove Award for southern gospel song of the year, “Where Shadows Never Fall“, recorded by Glen Campbell. The beautiful ballad, “No Future In The Past“, by male vocalist of the year Vince Gill was a huge songwriting success for Carl and was named the #1 Country Song of the Year for 1993 by Radio & Records magazine. In 1998, after hearing Carl’s demo, Garth Brooks decided to include the Jackson spiritual entitled “Fit For A King” in his “Sevens” project. All in all, Carl has had hundreds of his songs recorded, with sales in excess of forty million units. A poll conducted by Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine several years ago found Carl to have written eight of the top 200 bluegrass songs of all time.
Carl has also had a hand in the production of several great artists such as Ruby Lovett, Slickerbilly, Mike Ward, Real Surreal, Carly Goodwin, Bering Strait, Jim & Jesse and Bobbie Cryner, whose first effort on Sony Records received the honor of Best Country Album of 1993 in USA Today. More recently he has worked with new artists, Shawn King, Jennifer Wayne, Bradley Walker (2007 IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year) and Alecia Nugent, as well as hot new country sweethearts, Joey + Rory.
For some hot guitar pickin’, listen to Carl along with Steve Wariner, Mark O’Conner and Jimmy Olander sizzle on “Hap Towne Breakdowne“, included on Steve’s instrumental album, “No More Mr. Nice Guy”. Carl has two great writer’s CD’s along with pals, Larry Cordle& Jerry Salley, entitled “Against The Grain” and “Lonesome Cafe”. He is also the producer of the critically acclaimed tribute to the late Gram Parsons called “The Gram Parsons Notebook”, available on Shell Point Records. One of Carl’s finest production successes is entitled “Livin’, Lovin’, Losin’ – Songs Of The Louvin Brothers” and was the 2003 Grammy winner for Country Album of the Year. “How’s The World Treating You”, an incredible duet from the album, featuring James Taylor and Alison Krauss, also won the Grammy for vocal collaboration of the year. The CD was released in September 2003 and contains other performances by EmmyLou Harris & Rodney Crowell, Patty Loveless & Jon Randal, Dolly Parton & Sonya Isaacs, Joe Nichols & Rhonda Vincent, Glen Campbell & Leslie Satcher, Johnny Cash & Pam Tillis, Vince Gill & Terri Clark, Ronnie Dunn & Rebecca Lynn Howard, Harley Allen & Dierks Bentley, Marty Stuart & Del McCoury, Kathy Louvin & Pamela Brown Hayes, as well as three performances by Carl himself; one with songwriting pals, Larry Cordle & Jerry Salley, one with country legend, Merle Haggard, and one withthe incredible Linda Ronstadt. Speaking of Merle Haggard, Carl played guitar, as well as sang and produced all the harmony vocals on Hag’s release, “The Bluegrass Sessions“, except on one song where Alison Krauss joins Carl and lends her angelic voice to “Mama’s Hungry Eyes”.
Carl is featured on banjo, as well as vocals, along with Marty Stuart and Sheryl Crow, on the bluegrass gospel classic, “Life’s Railway To Heaven”, included on Brad Paisley’s “This Is Country Music” project. In addition, he lends some high lonesome tenor to the title track, as well as “A Man Don’t Have To Die”, along with the awesome, Sonya Isaacs. Brad, once again has invited Carl to be part of his latest release, “Wheelhouse” , singing harmony on “The Mona Lisa”, “Runaway Train”, and “Outstanding In Our Field”.
On September 21st 2011, another stellar project produced by Jackson was released to the public and is currently getting rave reviews across the country. “Mark Twain: Words & Music” tells the life story of the great Samuel Clemens and contains magical musical performances by Emmylou Harris, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Rhonda Vincent, Bradley Walker, The Church Sisters, Sheryl Crow, Brad Paisley, Marty Raybon, Val Storey, Vince Gill, Joe Diffie and Ricky Skaggs, as well as narration by Garrison Keillor, along with Jimmy Buffet, as the voice of Huck Finn, and non-other than Mr. Clint Eastwood, as the legendary Mark Twain. Carl even performs a song himself, entitled “Safe Water”, co-written with dear friend, Jerry Salley.
On December 26th, 2011 the state of Mississippi honored Carl with an official Country Music Trail Marker in his hometown of Louisville. The beautiful marker, which highlights Jackson’s career, stands within a stone’s throw of the historic Strand Theatre. Carl performs his annual “Home For Christmas” concert every December in the very building where he used to see movies as a kid, not to mention being born on the third floor, which housed a clinic back in 1953.
Carl’s latest project, “Grace Notes”, is an inspired guitar instrumental portrait of dearly loved hymns. It was recorded using a collection of rare acoustic guitars, some dating back to the mid-1800s, and includes Jackson’s own voice telling the “story” behind each instrument.
Since those days in Mississippi fifty some odd years ago, two-time SPBGMA songwriter of the year, Carl Jackson, has realized many of his dreams. But with each dream that becomes a reality, a new dream lies ahead.