George Jackson: “When Wilson Pickett heard the demos for the ‘Hey Jude’ session, he said to Rick Hall, ‘This guy really can sing. He’s so soulful.’ He told Jerry Wexler, he told Tom Dowd, ‘You really should record this guy’. It was hard enough to get Pickett to compliment anybody, but he gave me a very good compliment on those demos.” The slender, smartly dressed man in his late 60s is rightfully proud as he repeats the high praise from one of soul music’s greatest stars. Tony Rounce and I had travelled for nearly five hours in treacherous conditions to get from Muscle Shoals to Jackson, Mississippi for a 10 o’clock interview with the man we consider one of Southern soul’s finest songwriters. We, like many others, also consider him to be one of its greatest performers, but while he has written career-defining hits for Candi Staton, Clarence Carter, Otis Clay, Z.Z. Hill, Bob Seger and others, his own chart run consists of just two Top 50 R&B hits.
Near the top of our list of questions was why he never became the hit recording artist his songs and voice warranted. Over the course of an hour he answered all our questions and even gave us a sneak preview of a new song. Describing how he would write a song, he decided that a demonstration would be better, and moving over to the piano in the corner he did just that. It was a performance that will live with me forever; his voice is still in perfect shape and his songwriting ability doesn’t appear to have slipped either.
This will be Ace’s third full CD of George Jackson recordings. The first set comprised tracks cut at Gene Lucchesi’s Sounds Of Memphis studio in the mid-70s. The second was “Don’t Count Me Out”, our first volume of recordings made for Rick Hall at FAME in the late 60s.
As we researched the FAME tapes, we were at times overwhelmed by the vast number of recordings George made there. It seems he was not only writing and recording every day, but the songs he wrote were rarely anything less than excellent. “Don’t Count Me Out” premiered some fine original versions of songs well-known by other artists, as well as others which were never placed. We have repeated that formula here on “Let The Best Man Win”, which features George’s takes on songs considered classics of the Southern soul genre in performances by Clarence Carter, Candi Staton, Bettye Swann, Wilson Pickett and others, plus some previously unknown gems from his pen. The earliest of these recordings have George backed by the classic FAME house band of David Hood, Roger Hawkins, Jimmy Johnson and Barry Beckett., while on the later tracks he is joined by the Fame Gang.