The Jackson Five—Bluegrass Style

Reprinted from Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine
July 1972, Volume 7, Number 1

Imagine, if you can, a big-name bluegrass band—one which usually has a superior banjo player—stepping out onto the stage to greet their cheering, enthusiastic fans. With them is a new banjo player—very new—like, 14 years old, and a complete unknown. The fans are more than willing to accept the newcomer out of respect for their idols. And because he’s young and looks like everybody’s little brother, they’ll probably give him a generous round of applause to make him feel welcome; and hope that their group will not be so desperate for a banjo player the next time they’re in the area.

You can well imagine some of the comments throughout the audience, as the youngster steps up to the microphone for his first break:

“Must be somebody’s nephew.”
“Is that a 5-string, or a 4-string?”
“Lord, give me strength through this ordeal!”
“Shut up, Paw! I think he’s cute.”

But by the time the young lad has finished his flawless contribution to the fast-paced introductory instrumental, the comments in the audience have stopped. Carl Jackson steps back, looks heavenward, and breathes a sigh of relief, as the audience bursts into spontaneous, thundering applause. Such was the scene the first time Carl appeared at Sunset Park in May 1967, as one of Jim and Jesse’s Virginia Boys. It seems conceivable that pretty much the same scene occurred in Nashville, Tennessee, that same year when Carl appeared with Jim & Jesse on the Grand Ole Opry.

He didn’t learn his trade overnight, of course. As a matter of fact, at the age of 14, he was a seasoned performer; his first paid performance came about when he was only 9 years old, playing to an audience of approximately 200 people.

Born September 18, 1953, in the small town of Louisville, Mississippi, Carl was fortunate in becoming a member of a music-loving family. His father, Lethal Jackson, mastered the guitar, and his younger sister, Dianne, plays piano and clarinet. He was also fortunate in knowing people in his school with whom he could get together for music sessions. Carl was graduated with high honors from Louisville High School in June 1971.

One interesting feature about this young man is the fact that he has mastered playing banjo, guitar, dobro, mandolin, bass, and the art of writing brilliant material; and yet music is not his only interest—not an obsession, as it is with a lot of the outstanding artists. He was, as mentioned before, an honor student in school; he is also an avid sports fan; and even has a collection of coins.

Carl gives the credit of learning his basic banjo picking to Bud Rose. He rounded out his style as many others have, by observing, listening to records, and just a whole lot of practice. He once won a talent contest and cut a single record as a result of it. He later made contributions to an album made by a gospel group, The Page Family. His friendship with a couple of brothers named McReynolds and his remarkable talent with a banjo were the basis for his obtaining a position with Jim & Jesse and The Virginia Boys. In August 1969, Carl, playing banjo and classical guitar, was part of the recording session for the album, “We Like Trains” (Epic No. 26513)

In May 1971, Carl was the star of his own album, “Bluegrass Festival”

[BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL-Carl Jackson, Prize-PRS 498-02 Banjo-Mandolin Feud/Stony Creek/Done Gone/Slewfoot Banjo /Bill Cheatham/Foggy Mountain Breakdown/Rotation/Dixie Hoedown/Rawhide/Flop Eared Mule

Personnel: Carl Jackson-banjo, guitar; Lethal Jackson-guitar; Jesse McReynolds-mandolin; Jim McReynolds-guitar; Jerry Reid -guitar; Jim Brock-fiddle; Jim Brock, Jr. – bass.]

Carl Jackson is also composing some fine instrumental numbers.

There does not appear to be any end to Carl Jackson’s capabilities. Even in these beginning stages of a musical career, he has left a mark on the industry that has impressed even the masters.

Share this Article