Sunday, June 15, 2008

"None of Them Had Leo Jackson's Talent to Help"

Category: Obituary

One thing missing from the 16-CD box set on Jim Reeves from Bear Family, Welcome to My World, is the live album Jim Reeves on Stage, which was released in 1968. On that album, Reeves did some songs while impersonating the artists who made them famous. One of those songs was "One By One." Reeves introduced the song by saying his guitarist, Leo Jackson, was going to help out. "Lots of people have done this before," Reeves said, "but none of them had Leo Jackson's talent to help." Launching into the song, Reeves did Red Foley's part while Jackson impersonated Kitty Wells. It was funny -- and a very good impression.

George "Leo" Jackson died May 4th of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home in Nashville. Apparently, Jackson had been suffering from recurring back spasms that were terribly painful. He was given a medication that has listed, among its side effects, mental confusion. Friends and family are not sure whether it was the unbearable pain or the medication affecting his mental status that caused Jackson to end his life. Regardless, country music has lost a tremendous talent.

Leo Jackson was 18 when he was introduced to Jim Reeves shortly after Reeves' breakthrough hit "Mexican Joe." From that day until the day Reeves died in 1964 a musical partnership was forged, with only a temporary time-out for Jackson's stint in the Army interrupting things.

Following the plane crash that killed Reeves and his piano player/manager, Dean Manuel, Leo and the other surviving members of the Blue Boys toured in tribute to Jim and released albums on RCA. The band finally broke up in 1972, not because Reeves' popularity was waning but because Reeves' popularity was soaring thanks to re-releases and overdubs.

A gifted guitarist, Jackson became a very in-demand session musician. He performed on most of Alabama's albums and worked with Hank Williams, Jr. and Moe & Joe.

In the early 2000s Jackson was diagnosed with cancer, which he successfully fought. However, a back injury caused tremendous pain. According to one report, after a particularly nasty bout with the pain Jackson told a friend that he'd rather die than endure pain that terrible again.

Leo Jackson was 73.

1 comment:

Jim Booker said...

I knew Leo Jackson in the early 50s, but have a different recollection of some of the dates on the things he did! Contact me at should anyone want to discuss those things. Thanks JIM