Happy birthday, Alan Jackson! The singer was born 62 years ago today, on Oct. 17, 1958, in Newnan, Ga.
Jackson was born to Joseph Eugene and Ruth Musick and was the youngest of five children — and the only boy. He and his family lived in a tiny home, built around his grandfather’s tool shed, on his grandparents’ nine-acre farm. Most of his extended family lived within walking distance, with an aunt and a grandmother living directly behind his family’s home.
“We weren’t way out in the country, but we were rural,” the tunesmith says of his humble beginnings. “I didn’t know how unusual it was to grow up surrounded by that much family until I got older. It was different. I realize now that a big part of who I am comes from growing up the way I did.”
Jackson stayed in Georgia, married his high school sweetheart Denise and got a job right after graduation. Although he was a fan of some of the legends of country music, such as Gene Watson and John Anderson, his aspirations of a music career didn’t come until much later.
“I was fooling around with cars after I graduated,” Jackson recalls to The Boot. “Like most people, I got married young, to somebody [I was] already dating in high school. After that is when it changed, when I was in my early 20s. I started singing on weekends.
Alan Jackson Through the Years:
“One big step, [my wife] Denise was a school teacher when we got married, and she got a job as a flight attendant at the airlines. When she did, in that small town, that was like her going to Europe or something. In that small town, it was inconceivable that she’d take this job and fly around the country and wouldn’t be home having babies,” he adds. “I guess that opened the door a little bit to something other than the normal routine.”
The couple moved to Nashville when Jackson was 27 years old. He got a job in a mailroom, but it didn’t take long for others to realize his star power. Shortly after arriving in Music City, Jackson had a meeting with Glen Campbell’s publishing company, which started his music career. After playing in and around town for a few years, he signed his first recording contract with Arista Records in 1989, becoming the first artist signed to their country division.
Jackson has gone on to sell more than 80 million records and notch 26 No. 1 hits, including “Don’t Rock the Jukebox,” “Gone Country” and, perhaps his most well-known hit, “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” which was his response to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. But while Jackson might be known as one of the hardest-working men in music, he says that much of the credit belongs to his parents. His father, Gene, who inspired Jackson’s chart-topping hit “Drive (for Daddy Gene),” passed away in 2000, while his mother, who died in 2017, inspired his Precious Memories album.
“I think I had really good parents who were very caring people, very honest and humble people,” Jackson says. “When you’re raised that way, it stays with you most of your life. Of course, you don’t realize how special that is until you’re older. We didn’t have much money, but we were always happy. I’ve always had an easy, comfortable life.”
This story was originally written by Gayle Thompson, and revised by Annie Zaleski.
Alan Jackson + More Country Stars With October Birthdays:
WATCH: How Well Do You REALLY Know Alan Jackson?