Al Jackson, Jr.

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Al Jackson, Jr.
Birth name Alan Jackson
Born (1935-11-27)November 27, 1935
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
Died October 1, 1975(1975-10-01) (aged 39)
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
Genres R&B, funk, soul, Memphis soul
Instruments Drums
Years active 1940–1975
Labels Stax
Associated acts Booker T. & the M.G.'s

Al Jackson, Jr. (November 27, 1935 – October 1, 1975) was a drummer, producer, and songwriter. He is best known as a founding member of Booker T. & the M.G.'s, a group of session musicians who worked for Stax Records and produced their own instrumentals. Jackson was called "The Human Timekeeper" for his drumming ability.

Early life[edit]

Jackson's father, Al Jackson Sr., led a jazz/swing dance band in Memphis, Tennessee. The young Jackson started drumming at an early age and began playing on stage with his father's band in 1940 at the age of five. He later played in producer/trumpeter Willie Mitchell's band and at the same time was holding down a chair in the popular Ben Branch Band.

In an interview with DRUM! Magazine, Mitchell says,

"Al Junior was about 14 years old then. I said to his father, 'Hey, let’s use your son!' He said, 'Oh, man, he can’t play this shit!' But he did make the gig. He set up his kit – a cymbal, a snare drum, and a bass drum – and I kicked the thing off. And, man, that thing went off at 20 tempos!

But that was around 7:00 o'clock. And by the time Al Senior came in an hour later, at 8:00 o'clock, Al Jackson Jr. was swinging that damn band like a pro."[1]

Future band mates Steve Cropper and Donald "Duck" Dunn first heard Jackson playing in Mitchell's band at the Flamingo Room, and the all-white Manhattan Club. Mitchell had also hired Booker T. Jones for his band. It was Jones who suggested Jackson be brought to Stax. He said, "You guys need to know about Al". Duck also tells how Jackson almost caused his wife to divorce him because he'd stop by the club to hear him after playing at his own gig until one o'clock. He was so mesmerized he didn't come home until four or five in the morning. Says Duck, "He was that good!". It only took one session with Jackson to convince Duck and Cropper that they had to have him.[2] Jackson was reluctant at first. He felt he could make more money playing live than doing session work. He wanted a guaranteed regular salary to come over to Stax (although he continued to play on sessions produced by Mitchell for Hi Records). And so he became the first Stax session musician to be on a weekly salary.[3]

Career[edit]

Jackson became one of the most important and influential drummers in the history of recorded music at Stax, providing an instantly recognizable backbeat behind the label's artists which included Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, Eddie Floyd, Sam & Dave, Otis Redding, and blues guitarist Albert King, who Jackson also produced. Jackson co-wrote "Respect" and many other Stax hits. In the Seventies, Jackson co-wrote and played on several hits by Al Green, including "Let's Stay Together" and "I'm Still in Love with You" at Hi. In the 70s, Jackson was a session drummer for many artists, such as Tina Turner, Bill Withers, Leon Russell, Albert King, Jerry Lee Lewis, Eric Clapton, Jean Knight, Major Lance, Ann Peebles, Shirley Brown, Donny Hathaway, and Herbie Mann.

Death[edit]

Four years after the last Booker T. & the MGs album, 1971's Melting Pot, the group got together and decided to wrap up all of their individual productions and devote three years to a reunion of the band.

On September 30, 1975, Al Jackson was scheduled to fly from Memphis to Detroit, Michigan, to produce a Major Lance session, when he heard a reminder on the radio about the Joe FrazierMuhammad Ali fight that night. Jackson called Detroit to delay and said he was going to watch "The Thrilla in Manila" on the big screen at the Mid-South Coliseum.

Though still legally married, Jackson was estranged from his wife. In July 1975, his wife had shot him in the chest. He decided not to press charges, but was in the process of a divorce and was planning to move to Atlanta, Georgia, to begin working with Stax singer/songwriter William Bell.[4]

Jackson attended the screening with Eddie Floyd and Terry Manning. After the match, he returned home to find intruders in his house. He was reportedly told to get down on his knees and was then fatally shot five times in the back. Around 3:00 a.m. on October 1, Barbara Jackson ran out in the street, yelling for help. She told police that burglars had tied her up and shot her husband when he had returned home. Police found nothing out of place in the house, and Jackson's wallet and jewelry were still on him.

The man believed to have pulled the trigger had reportedly known someone in Memphis and after robbing a bank in Florida, told them to meet him over at Al Jackson's house. Tracked through Florida to Memphis and then to Seattle, Washington, the suspected triggerman, the boyfriend of Barbara Jackson's friend Denise LaSalle, was killed by a police officer on July 15, 1976 after a gun battle.[citation needed]

Equipment[edit]

Jackson used Rogers Drums with a 20" bass drum, 12" tom, 16" floor tom, and occasionally a 13" tom. He used a 14"x5" Rogers Powertone wooden snare drum with 8 lugs Zildjian 16" Crash, 18" Ride, and 14" Hi-Hats.

In live performances, Jackson often used Gretsch Drums (Round Badge), with a Ludwig Supraphonic 14x5 snare.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Doerschuk, Robert L. "Al Jackson Jr.: The Sound Of ’60s Soul". Reprinted from the Spring 2007 Issue of TRAPS Magazine. DRUM! Magazine. 
  2. ^ Bowman 1997, p. 37.
  3. ^ Bowman 1997, p. 38.
  4. ^ "William Bell Podcast". Spinning Soul. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Soulsville USA: The Story of Stax Records by Rob Bowman

External links[edit]