Member Since 1956
Named after the famously resolute Confederate general—the choice of his father, who died weeks before he was born —Stonewall Jackson was “stone country” long before people starting tossing that term around.
His huge 1959 No. 1 hit “Waterloo,” penned by Nashville songwriting giants Marijohn Wilkin and John D. Loudermilk, crossed over to the pop charts, then took him to American Bandstand and to an incongruous tour with Sam Cooke and Fabian. To this day, it seems to be the Stonewall song people remember and request most.
There’s some irony in it, since that undoubtedly catchy, marching-band sort of tune, a gleeful ode to life’s mishaps and failures, is so different from most of his 40 charting hits. The deeply affecting hard country “Life of a Poor Boy” and “A Wound Time Can’t Erase” are more typical—and not by accident.
Born in North Carolina, raised in Georgia in difficult circumstances that included both being poor and suffering the moods of an abusive stepfather, he tried running away from home, then falsifying age records to get into the Army—at 16, both unsuccessfully. The following year, he joined the Navy, where he learned to play guitar and sing; when his stint ended, he decided to give singing a try, heading back to the farm to work until he saved enough for a new pickup truck. When he got it, in 1956, Stonewall drove right into Nashville.
What happened next has become a country music legend. Having taken a room in a motel across the street from Acuff-Rose, he walked into the publishing house, and asked to be heard. Three demo songs were recorded on the spot, on a tape that went right to Wesley Rose. The most powerful man in town was so taken with Stonewall’s straightforward, utterly country singing, so removed from both the Nashville Sound of the time and the rock ’n’ roll that was dominating all of pop music. Stonewall is reported to have told Rose, “I came here for just one purpose—to get on the Grand Ole Opry. Can you get me an audition?” It was a solid rule at the time that only singers with records out – and Stonewall had never had any—could get on the Opry. With a call from Wesley Rose, Stonewall appeared in days, with early mentor and backer Ernest Tubb.
It was fitting that Stonewall was presented the Ernest Tubb Memorial Award in 1997 for his contributions to country music. He sings, in front of his band the Minutemen, with the same old-school, down-home directness today that he did the day he first walked onto the Opry stage. With the release of both a set of his complete recordings through the ’60s, Bear Family’s Stonewall Jackson: Waterloo, and of his late-’70s recordings with Little Darlin, a new generation has a chance to hear that music again.
The Best of Stonewall Jackson
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Birthplace: Tabor City, North Carolina
Birth Date: November 06
Opry Induction: November 03, 1956