Alan Jackson has sold more than 43 million albums worldwide, charted 31 number one songs, and by 2005 had earned 72 Country Music Association Award nominations, making him one of country music’s most acclaimed performers and songwriters. After a slow start in the 1980s he achieved huge critical and commercial success in the 1990s by blending a traditional, honky-tonk style with more contemporary influences. He was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 2001.
Alan Eugene Jackson was born October 17, 1958, in Newnan to Ruth and Eugene Jackson. When he was sixteen his parents bought him a $50 guitar, and at seventeen he made his first public performance in a high school production of Oklahoma. After dropping out of school, he worked a series of blue-collar jobs, started his own band, Dixie Steel, and became a frequent performer at local clubs. He and his wife, Denise, were married in 1979, and the couple has three children, Mattie, Alexandra, and Dani.
In 1985 a chance encounter proved to be a turning point in Jackson’s career. His wife, a flight attendant, met country star Glen Campbell at an airport. He listened to Jackson’s tape and suggested a move to Nashville, Tennessee, where Jackson became a staff songwriter at Glen Campbell Music.
At the same time Jackson continued to perform and worked on his own demo tape. In 1989 he became the first artist signed to Arista’s new Nashville division. His debut release, Here in the Real World (1990), went platinum. Its follow-up, Don’t Rock the Jukebox, was twice as successful, hitting double-platinum status. In 1991 Roy Acuff and Randy Travis inducted him into the Grand Ole Opry.
Since then Jackson has had a string of number-one hit songs and country music awards. His 1992 album A Lot about Livin’ (And a Little ’bout Love) generated five hit singles, including “Chattahoochee” and “Mercury Blues.” He released Honky Tonk Christmas in 1993, Who I Am in 1994, and greatest-hits collections in 1995 and in 2003. His other CDs are Everything I Love (1996), High Mileage (1998), Under the Influence (1999), When Somebody Loves You (2000), Let It Be Christmas (2002), and What I Do (2004). Jackson also contributed to Crank It Up (1996), a comedy album by Georgia native Jeff Foxworthy.
After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., Jackson penned “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” which became his twenty-ninth number-one song and a poignant anthem of the times, spending five weeks at the top of the charts and winning Jackson three Academy of Country Music awards as well as a Grammy Award for Best Country Song. Its lyrics were entered into the U.S. Congressional Record, and it was featured on his eleventh CD, Drive (2002).
His recording Precious Memories, a collection of classic gospel songs, was released in early 2006. His second album of 2006, Like Red on a Rose, is a collection of contemporary ballads produced by country and bluegrass musician Alison Krauss. In 2007 Jackson released Live at Texas Stadium, and the following year he released Good Time, his first album consisting entirely of original songs.
Jackson—who cites George Jones, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, George Strait, and other traditional male artists as his musical influences—evokes down-home values and displays a sentimental attachment to his roots. His songs communicate simple truths with sincerity, humor, and a lack of affectation.