Country singer Stonewall Jackson, a longtime Opry member, dies at 89

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Stonewall Jackson, a country singer and longtime Grand Ole Opry member known for his now-classic hit "Waterloo," died Saturday at age 89.

Jackson died early Saturday due to complications from vascular dementia, according to a statement from the Opry.

A classic country performer who charted songs in the 1950s, '60s and '70s, Jackson built his 65-year career on No. 1 hits "Waterloo" and "B.J. The D.J," as well as "A Wound Time Can't Erase," "Don't Be Angry" and his 1958 debut single "Life To Go," written by a young George Jones.

Born on Nov. 6, 1932, in Tabor City, North Carolina, Jackson was named after Confederate general Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. Raised on a south Georgia farm, Jackson at age 10 traded his bike for a guitar and began learning songs, according to his biography.

After serving in the U.S. Navy, he came to Nashville in 1956, knocking on the door of top publisher Acuff-Rose in hopes of launching a country music career.

“I came into town, stopped at a little motel on the south side of town, and checked in,” Jackson once said, according to the Grand Ole Opry. Across the street stood Acuff-Rose offices.

He added, “I said, I believe I’ll walk over there and see if anybody in country music will talk to me.”

He signed with publisher Wesley Rose and began climbing the country music ranks, becoming an Opry member on Nov. 3, 1956 — months before signing a record contract with Columbia. According to the Opry, Jackson worked in shipping for the institution before his career took off, including shifts where he mailed souvenir books from the basement of the National Life building.

He wouldn't be shipping collectables for long, though. Jackson's career took off in the late 1950s with "Life To Go" and "Waterloo," the latter spending five weeks at No. 1 on Billboard's country chart. The song remains Jackson's best-known, giving listeners a haunting story of three historical men — Biblical figure Adam, Napoleon Bonaparte and Tom Dooley — who "met (their) Waterloo," a nod to death. The song became a crossover hit for Jackson, breaking into the top five on pop charts.

On "Waterloo," he sang: "Everybody has to pay/ Everybody has to meet his Waterloo."

Jackson continued to chart songs throughout the 1960s and early '70s, including "I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water," "Why I'm Walkin'," "Stamp Out Lonliness" and a cover of "Me and You and a Dog Named Boo."

Jackson regularly performed on the Opry throughout his career; in 2006 he sued the longtime program for age discrimination, according to the Associated Press. The Opry denied Jackson's claims, settling the dispute out of court in 2008, the AP reported.

Jackson was the last living solo artist to be in inducted into the Opry in the 1950s. Country Music Hall of Famer "Whisperin'" Bill Anderson holds the title of longest-tenured Opry member, joining in 1961. The Opry dedicated Saturday night's performance to Jackson.

"Saddened to hear of the loss of one of the Honky Tonk heroes of the '50s and '60s Grand Ole Opry member STONEWALL JACKSON went home today," fellow Opry members the Oak Ridge Boys shared Saturday via Twitter. "Rest easy sir!!"

He lived for decades in Brentwood, on a compound Jackson coined "Lake Waterloo."

Jackson is preceded in death by his wife and business manager, Juanita Wair Jackson, who died in 2019.

A visitation for Jackson takes place Wednesday and Thursday from 2-7 p.m. at Hickory Chapel, 5852 Nolensville Pike, Nashville. A chapel service takes place Thursday at 7 p.m. Call 615-331-1952 for more information.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Stonewall Jackson dies: Grand Ole Opry member, 89, sang 'Waterloo'

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