Country Music Star Stonewall Jackson Passes at Age 89

Legendary country music singer Stonewall Jackson passed away early this past Saturday morning at the age of 89. Remembered for hits such as “Life to Go,” “B.J. the D.J.,” and “Waterloo,” the smooth-voiced, sharply-dressed Jackson burst onto the country scene in the late 1950s, carving out a successful musical niche for himself that bridged the gap between the highly produced “Nashville Sound” of artists such as Jim Reeves and the honky tonk twang of more traditional artists such as his mentor Ernest Tubb.

A native of North Carolina, Jackson relocated to Nashville, Tennessee in 1956 to pursue a music career. He caught the attention of musical executives quickly, and, following an audition arranged by Acuff-Rose president Wesley Rose, he became the first artist invited to join the Grand Ole Opry before he had even landed a recording contract. (He went on to sign with Columbia Records in 1958.)

His recording of “Life to Go,” a song penned by George Jones, reached No. 2 on the country charts by early 1959. That was followed five weeks later by the No. 1 hit “Waterloo,” a catchy song about the inevitability of fate. At the height of his career, 1958–1971, Jackson scored a total of 35 Top 40 country hits, including “Don’t Be Angry,” “B.J. the D.J” (a tragic song about a hard-working disc jockey who dies in a rainy car crash), “Why I’m Walkin’,” “Life to Go,” and “I Washed My Hands in Muddy Water” (the latter two offering further fatalistic reflections concerning criminals who can’t escape their pasts). In 1971, he released “Recorded Live at the Grand Ole Opry,” the first live album ever recorded at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, the “Mother Church of Country Music.”

Stonewall Jackson lived out his retirement on a farm in Brentwood, Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville. His death followed a long battle with vascular dementia.