Legendary singer still loves Hank

Published 5:13 pm Tuesday, May 28, 2013

One of Hank Williams most devoted fans at this year’s Hank Williams Sr. Festival will be legendary country songwriter and singer Stonewall Jackson.

“Hank has always been my favorite country singer,” Jackson said. “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 was just a small kid when I first heard Hank, but his music has always stuck with me.”

By the time Jackson received his discharge from the Navy in 1954, he was ready for a singing career. He loaded up his old pickup and drove to Nashville.

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When Wesley Rose of Acuff-Rose Publishing Company heard a demo tape that he had made, he sent Jackson to see his friend 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, with a song written by George Jones, “Life to Go.” It peaked at No. 2 in early 1959 and his follow-up record, “Waterloo,” was No. 1 for five weeks and crossed over into the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it reached No. 4, and sold more than a million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.

In 1963, Jackson was the first artist to record a live album from the Grand Ole Opry with “Old Showboat.”

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.

Jackson will be part of the Mini Opry on Saturday night, which will also feature Jim Ed Brown, Helen Cornelius, David Frizzell, Jimmy Fortune and Jett Williams.

Saturday afternoon’s lineup includes Brad Magness and his band “The Flying Buffaloes,” Starla Jones, The Southern Legends, Mary McDonald, Colon Leatherwood, Elaine McMillan and others.

Friday night’s featured entertainer is Gene Watson. Appearing prior to Watson will be  Magness, Mary McDonald, Leatherwood, and several others.

Thursday there will be a free Karaoke session beginning at 7 p.m.

Friday fans can enter the Hank Williams Music Park at 3 p.m. Admission is $15.

Saturday the gates open at 8 a.m. Admission is $25.

The Hank Williams Festival is an outdoor event, sponsored by the Hank Williams Museum. There is no reserved seating. Visitors are encouraged to bring your lawn chairs. No lounge chairs, coolers, food, drinks, or pets can be taken into the park.