Alan Jackson: A Regular Guy (1994)

Platinum Albums and Country Awards Play Second Fiddle To His Fans

photos by Ron Davis/Shooting Star, additional photos courtesy of Alan Jackson

Originally published in the July 5, 1994 issue of Country Weekly magazine.

He started out as a mechanic. Then he picked up a guitar. Now, two homes, four boats, nine or 10 Harley-Davidsons, an assortment of cars and trucks and a collection of platinum albums later, Alan Jackson is still very much a regular guy. 

In fact, if you talk to him about his singing, he’ll more than likely shy away from the question. Because even though each new Alan Jackson album sells a million more than its predecessor, this country boy from Newnan, Ga., still just doesn’t understand what all the hoopla’s about. 

“I hate to hear myself sing,” the multi award‑winning singer told Country Weekly. “’Cause I don’t sound like George Jones or Vern Gosdin or Merle Haggard.”

So even though he might not think he’s the world’s greatest country crooner, there is one thing he’s crystal clear about: Other people do.

At the Academy of Country Music Awards in May, when he wasn’t caught up in co-hosting duties with Reba McEntire, he was busy catching trophies—single and album of the year.

The fans, whose votes decide the TNN Music City News Country Awards, gave him a near sweep of top honors, including Entertainer of the Year, at last month’s show. 

To recognize his fans’ contribution to his career, and to thank them for all of their support, Jackson recently dropped the $10 membership fee for joining his fan club. 

“It’s something I’ve thought about for a long time,” the soft-spoken superstar recently told an audience at TNN’s Music City Tonight recently. “I’ve had the fan club for four or five years now and it’s done real well. But I always thought it was kind of bizarre to have to charge people to be in it. I mean, it’s an organization for those people who are real serious and dedicated. I know they get something for their money, but I’ve just decided I don’t want to charge them anymore.”

So what about those who have already paid to join? They get a $10 credit toward the purchase of Alan Jackson merchandise from the fan club.

After his TV appearance, the “Tallest Man in Country Music”—all 6 feet and 4 inches of him—relaxed during a short dinner break before taking the Grand Ole Opry stage to play a few songs from his upcoming album, Who I Am, due in stores today.

This album boasts something very few other country discs have—13 songs, three more than the norm.

“After we got through, every song had a purpose on there, there was nothing that we could leave off. So we didn’t.

“These songs were things I enjoyed, something I wanted to sing about.”

For the Opry show, Alan chose his new single, “Summertime Blues,” a remake of the Eddie Cochran classic, for his first song. If this audience is any indication, this record’s a big smash. Country singer Mark Collie stood onstage during Jackson’s performance. As applause carried Alan offstage, Mark told him, “Soundin’ good, ol’ boy. Might be another ‘Chattahoochee.’ ”

The video for “Summertime Blues” should help other fans connect the two songs. He calls the new video “Chattahoochee II.”

“It does remind me of ‘Chattahoochee,’ ” Alan said. “We didn’t try to hide that. We actually start the video with the tail end of the ‘Chattahoochee’ video, with splashing water, and then these trucks come on. It’s like a sequel, I guess, like the movies.”

While “Summertime Blues” should remind fans of Alan’s biggest success, the next song he played for the Opry crowd made clear there’s a price he has to pay for it.

“Job Description” is about being on the road without his little girls, Mattie, 4, and Ali, 10 months. In it, he tries to explain to them what it is that keeps him gone for days at a time. This song will prove to be another one of those great Jackson classics, along the lines of “Wanted.”

Jackson realizes that being in the spotlight has changed his life. Not only does it keep him on the road, but even simple things like going to the grocery store, for instance, are no longer an easy accomplishment. “I can go, but I’m going to end up signing autographs and taking pictures,” he said.

Fans also go to nearly any length to meet Alan backstage. “I don’t know how many times I’ve had my brother show up at a show,” he told reporters at the TNN Music City News awards. “I don’t have a brother that I know of.”

He explained further to Country Weekly: “I don’t want people to think I gripe all of the time about being successful, but it’s hard. I’m just not real outgoing. I’m not real comfortable with people I don’t know so it’s uncomfortable for me to be treated so special. I like to be treated just like a normal guy,” he said.

In fact, he was thrilled to be written up for a speeding ticket.

“I don’t drive around wearing my stage clothes. I just usually wear a ball cap, so I don’t stick out or anything.

“So, the other day I got stopped. Usually, when you give them your driver’s license ‑‑ if they’re any kind of a fan, they know who you are. So they ask for an autograph and let you go. But this time, the guy took my ID, went back to his car and wrote me up a ticket.

“When we drove off, I told my wife Denise, ‘I don’t really like to pay this $100 fine, but it’s nice for somebody to just treat me like a normal person.’ And that’s the way I am. When I get off that stage, I like to just go by Kmart and get a fishing rod and not have any of that stuff following me,” he said.

“Hopefully, I’m smart enough to understand that I’m just a person that’s like anybody else. I ain’t nothin’ special. It’s real easy to allow yourself to get caught up in all of that and think you’re above everybody and put yourself on a pedestal. That’s when you start to have problems. But I know I’m just a regular guy who got lucky.”

 

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