George Jackson Biography

1936, Greenville, Mississippi, USA. Jackson has a quietly emotional country/soul delivery that could have made him a southern soul singing star in his own right, but as he only recorded 15 singles over a 22-year period between 1963 and 1985 (and a fine album in 1991), it is as a prolific and highly skilled songwriter that he is most respected.

When Jackson was 14, he offered some of his songs to Ike Turner when Turners’ Revue was playing Greenville, and went with him to Cosimo’s famous studio in New Orleans to record ‘Nobody Wants To Cha Cha With Me’/‘Who Was That Guy’ for Turner’s Prann label. Later, Jackson travelled extensively, trying to promote himself and his songs. He was rejected by the fast-growing Stax Records, but in 1965, while in Memphis, Jackson linked up with the Ovations on the newly formed Goldwax Records label, penning their biggest hit, ‘It’s Wonderful To Be In Love’. Goldwax soon recognized Jackson’s writing ability and he provided material for other artists on the label, including ‘Old Friend’ and ‘He’s Too Old’ for Spencer Wiggins, and ‘Coming Back To Me Baby’ for James Carr. He also joined fellow singer-songwriter Dan Greer to cut the Goldwax single ‘Good Times’/‘You Didn’t Know It But You Had Me’ as George And Greer. By 1968, Jackson had left Goldwax for the nearby Hi Records label, where he initially recorded one single, ‘I’m Gonna Wait’/‘So Good To Me’. While still involved with Hi, Jackson appeared as Bart Jackson on a Decca Records release, ‘Wonderful Dream’/‘Dancing Man’, and, shortly afterwards, moved across to Muscle Shoals and Rick Hall’s Fame studio at the instigation of Nashville producer (and an old friend of Hall’s) Billy Sherrill. This was Fame’s peak soul period, and Hall engaged Jackson as a ‘house’ writer. He found immediate success with Clarence Carter’s ‘Too Weak To Fight’ and Wilson Pickett’s ‘A Man And A Half’.

Later Jackson songs for Fame included many of Candi Staton’s superb early recordings, such as ‘I’m Just A Prisoner’, ‘I’d Rather Be An Old Man’s Sweetheart (Than A Young Man’s Fool)’, the racy ‘Get It When I Want It’, ‘Evidence’, ‘Too Hurt To Cry’, ‘Freedom Is Just Beyond The Door’ and the beautiful ‘How Can I Put Out The Flame’. These songs are widely regarded as examples of some of the finest southern soul ever recorded by a female artist, with lyrics that were full of meaning and innuendo, a hallmark of Jackson’s best work. He wrote for other Fame artists, and recorded three singles himself, two appearing on Fame, and one later leased out to Chess Records. By the early 70s Rick Hall’s Fame productions for ‘out-of-town’ artists were increasingly ‘pop’-orientated. The Osmonds recorded there, and Jackson gave them their first ever hit on MGM Records, the massive-selling early 1971 US chart-topper, ‘One Bad Apple’, which he had originally written with the Jackson Five in mind.

Meanwhile, Jackson ‘the performer’ fleetingly rejoined Willie Mitchell at Hi, and in 1972/3 released two more singles of his own, including the beautiful southern country/soul song ‘Aretha, Sing One For Me’, a paean to the great female soul singer. It had little commercial impact, and Jackson soon linked up with MGM, for whom he had effectively launched the Osmonds pop act. While still writing for others, Jackson also recorded three singles for the label in 1973/4, the best being the punchy ‘(If I Could Get On That) Soul Train’. One more followed in 1976 for Er Music (‘Talkin’ About The Love I Have For You’) and then, in 1979, Jackson cut ‘Fast Young Lady’ for Muscle Shoals Sounds. After Bob Seger had a big hit in 1979 with Jackson’s ‘Old Time Rock ‘N’ Roll’, the singer-songwriter formed his own publishing company, Happy Hooker Music, and gained further financial rewards in 1981 from another Seger success, ‘Trying To Live My Life Without You’, originally cut some years earlier by Otis Clay for Hi.

Jackson then recorded several more obscure singles for his own Washataw and Happy Hooker labels in 1984/5, before joining the burgeoning southern blues and soul label Malaco Records as a staff writer. Jackson’s successful compositions for the label included the huge seller for the late Z.Z. Hill, ‘Down Home Blues’, which he originally wrote some 10 years earlier. With artists such as Bobby Bland, Johnnie Taylor, Latimore and Denise LaSalle all recording for Malaco Records, Jackson’s brand of southern soul songwriting has plenty of scope. In March 1991, he recorded an excellent album, Heart To Heart Collect, for Senator Jones’ Hep’ Me Records, and wrote all of the 10 tracks. Recorded at IRS studio in Pearl, Mississippi, it was released in the UK on CD in 1993 on Gary Cape’s Black Grape label. (NB: Not to be confused with blues harpist/vocalist Big George Jackson.)

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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