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 Cosimos famous studio in New Orleans to record Nobody Wants To Cha Cha With Me/Who Was That Guy for Turners 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, Its Wonderful To Be In Love. Goldwax soon recognized Jacksons writing ability and he provided material for other artists on the label, including Old Friend and Hes 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 Didnt 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, Im 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 Halls Fame studio at the instigation of Nashville producer (and an old friend of Halls) Billy Sherrill. This was Fames peak soul period, and Hall engaged Jackson as a house writer. He found immediate success with Clarence Carters Too Weak To Fight and Wilson Picketts A Man And A Half.
Later Jackson songs for Fame included many of Candi Statons superb early recordings, such as Im Just A Prisoner, Id Rather Be An Old Mans Sweetheart (Than A Young Mans 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 Jacksons 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 Halls 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 Jacksons 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. Jacksons 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, Jacksons 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 Capes 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.