By Jane Smith
Special to the Meadville Tribune
WEST MEAD TOWNSHIP —
Wearing a No. 26 white baseball jersey with Alan Jackson written on it,
Cindy Rollinger of Apollo was one of a dozen Jackson fans standing in
line at the Crawford County Fair on Saturday night for a chance to “meet
and greet” the country music star.
As a member of his fan club, she was given a special pass. She’s no stranger to Jackson’s music. “I have seen him 38 times,” she said, but “never got to meet him.”
“Oh my gosh, there he is,” she said as Jackson entered a tent to greet the visitors. Although her “meeting” was a brief 15 seconds or so, it left her breathless. She couldn’t wait for the music to start.
Rollinger wasn’t alone in supporting country music. Mary Deane of Meadville was at her 21st county fair concert. She was one of the diehards who used to camp out on the Crawford County Courthouse steps to buy the first tickets when they went on sale. “I miss the old days,” she laughed. But, it didn’t stop her from buying tickets. She loves Jackson’s music, especially songs he has written about the military, such as “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?” referring to the terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. She likes the songs about military because her son, Christopher, is now a 16-year U.S. Air Force veteran.
Rollinger “likes them all,” she said, noting she doesn’t have a favorite.
Jackson didn’t disappoint either fan or the thousands of others who cheered when he walked out to greet the nearly sold-out grandstand and racetrack. Screens on the side of the stage showed statistics about odds including the fact that only 1 in 11,521,739 southern Georgia boys have had multiple No. 1 country songs.
The list included many favorites, beginning with one of his earliest “Here in the Real World,” “Don’t Rock the Juke Box,” and many more. Wearing his trademark white cowboy hat and blue jeans, Jackson was the epitome of a country boy and soon had the crowd rocking and cheering as he sang “Gone Country,” about how people have gone country in their choice of music and dress.
Many grandstand fans were standing as they swayed back and forth to the music. Others stood on their wooden chairs to get a better glimpse of the singer. His music was accompanied by videos depicting scenes from the songs and were well received. Jackson sang many of his hits, from the love story of “Living on Love” and “Little Bitty,” about couples who didn’t have much money, but had successful lives with their spouses.
He proved over and over why he has remained a superstar for 25 years as he mixed the fast-paced, rocking songs with the slow ballads, many of which he wrote from his life experiences.
The crowd gave him standing ovations as he finished his nearly 90-minute concert with a song, “Where I Came From.” It included pictures of scenes taken in Crawford County and Pennsylvania. The last scene was one showing the Pittsburgh Steelers, which also brought loud approval and showing why Jackson is not just a great singer, but a great entertainer.
Another southern singer, Kip Moore, opened for Jackson and also was well received by the audience of country music lovers. He has been singing in Nashville for nine and one-half years and currently has a No. 1 hit, “Something About a Truck.” The crowd recognized it immediately and responded with loud applause.
He followed it with a song about a “Good Time Girl,” also a crowd pleaser.
In a quick interview prior to his show, Moore said he chose country music “because I grew up with country.” His dad loved stars like Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson. “I thought Dad was cool. He liked it (country music) so I liked it.” He liked it so well, he chose to make it his profession.
He’s an up-and-coming star and said it takes a lot of work. “You have to have no alternative,” he said, when asked what advice he may give others thinking about making music a career. He said you have to have the mindset that it’s “make it or break it.” He’s got that mindset and based on the response from Saturday night’s audience, Moore too will become on of those who beat the odds to make it big in country music.