08/29/2014

Alan Jackson takes sneak peek at new Hall of Fame exhibit

Cindy Watts, Tennessean.com 10:15 a.m. CDT August 28, 2014

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum director Kyle Young,right, gives a toast to Alan Jackson, who's wife, Denise and daughters were present during an opening party for Alan Jackson's exhibit in commemoration of his 25 years in country music.

Alan Jackson wishes he could remember everything he’s done in the last 25 years of his country music career. In that time, the “Grand Ole Opry” member has sold 60 million albums and charted 35 No. 1 songs.

He said it’s been a crazy ride — one he wishes he had documented. Instead, Jackson built his career on being the plainspoken voice of the common man in songs including “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” “Chattahoochee” and “Where I Come From.”

“It seems like it went by really fast, and then again it seems like it’s been forever,” Jackson said. “I wish I could just remember all the things I’ve done and people I’ve met and special events. It’s been so much.”

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum plans to help him out with those memories in its new exhibit Alan Jackson: 25 Years of Keepin’ It Country, which opens Friday and runs through March 30, 2015. Wednesday evening, Jackson attended a sneak peek of the exhibit with his wife, Denise, to see the tribute and talk about one of his favorite items currently in the exhibit: his first car. Jackson’s 1955 Ford Thunderbird convertible will be on display in the museum lobby through Monday.

At 12, Jackson started saving his money for his first car. He bought the vintage Ford three years later and restored it with his father, Gene.

After high school, Jackson sold it to get the down payment for his and his wife’s first home.

“It was the only thing I had of any value,” Jackson said. “It was my baby, and I had to give it up for this baby. I never thought I would see it again.”

Fourteen years later, Denise tracked down the Thunderbird and bought it for him for Christmas.

“It’s the only time I’ve ever seen him cry over an inanimate object,” she said.

“This car was a big part of my life,” he said. “At the time, I was struggling and I didn’t have much going on, and that car gave me an identity and it boosted my confidence.”

The car is just one of hundreds of Jackson’s personal items that will be on display. Other pieces include the Ford truck desk from his first Fan Fair booth, the water ski from the “Chattahoochee” video, the guitar he played on the CMA Awards when he debuted “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” various awards, several pairs of his signature tattered blue jeans and pieces from his collection “Andy Griffith Show” memorabilia.

Carolyn Tate, vice president of museum services at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, was in charge of collecting all the pieces for the exhibit. She said Jackson gave her free rein of his home on multiple occasions.

“They’d just leave when we came in. I robbed them blind,” she joked, explaining that they “stuffed” a moving van, another van and her car.

Tate said Jackson’s tendency to keep artifacts from his career close at hand simplified her job.

“He came from a family of real keepers and savers,” she said. “He’s had a long marriage and great management who doesn’t change a lot, and that’s a great way to build a collection. We have outfits from almost every part of his career, just really gorgeous things.”

Jackson just hopes that visitors to the exhibit don’t think he’s “bragging and showing off” about accomplishments but that they realize his love of the music was and continues to drive him.

“Every few years, it seems like there’s a big song that comes along that a lot of people connected with,” Jackson said. “I’m hoping that my music was more than just in-one-ear-and-out-the-other entertainment. I hope my music meant something to people and to country music.”

Reach Cindy Watts at 615-664-2227 and on Twitter ciwatts@tennessean.com.

About the exhibit

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s new exhibit Alan Jackson: 25 Years of Keepin’ It Country runs Friday and through March 30, 2015. Museum guests also can attend a trio of related activities this weekend. PAGE 11A

Museum events

Museum guests can attend a trio of activities this weekend related to the new Alan Jackson exhibit:

Jim McBride, a frequent Jackson collaborator, will participate in a Songwriter Session at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. At 1 p.m. families can participate in a guided tour, When Daddy Let Me Drive: The Museum’s Cool Cars, which will highlight classic vehicles on display in the museum’s galleries.

On Sunday, the museum will screen Alan Jackson: The Greatest Hits Collection.

In October, Jackson will be the 2014 Artist-in-Residence at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s new 800-seat CMA Theater. The concerts are 7 p.m. Oct. 8 and 22. Tickets are $60-$100 and go on sale to the public at noon Sept. 8 at countrymusichalloffame.org/artist-in-residence.

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