Meet Jody Jackson! Jody is originally from Atlanta and attended the University of West Georgia, he has worked in the country music scene for most of his career and most recently serves as the Executive Director of the John Jarrard Foundation in Gainesville for the last 10 years.
Early in his career, Jody worked in radio promotions in Atlanta, most notably for WYAY/106-FM. In 2015 he was appointed by former Gov. Nathan Deal to the Georgia Music, Film and Digital Entertainment Advisory Board. He has two children; daughter Lauren who recently graduated from Georgia Southern University and son, Landon, who is a student at The University of West Georgia.
The John Jarrard Foundation was formed in 2000 in memory of songwriter, friend and Georgia Music Hall of Fame member and Gainesville native, John Jarrard.
John was born and raised in Gainesville and moved to Nashville in 1977 to pursue a career as a country music songwriter. Within one year, he began to experience sight failure resulting from diabetes, and by 1979, was totally blind, according to www.johnjarrardfoundation.com. When country music superstar Don Williams recorded John’s song, “Nobody But You,” taking it to the top of the charts, doors began opening for John. John’s songs were recorded by Alabama, Georgia Strait, Diamond Rio, Tracy Lawrence and others; until he had 11 No. 1 hits.
Later, as diabetes took a toll on John, he endured two kidney transplants, leg amputation and eventually took his life.
This Saturday, for the 18th year, will be the John Jarrard Songwriters Concert on the Brenau University front lawn. The concert will feature Hit Songwriters Jonathan Singleton, Lee Thomas Miller, Wyatt Durrette and Levi Lowrey. All of these songwriters combined have written over 25 hit songs.
In the past 18 years the foundation has raised nearly $2 million for local charities.
“Please come out and support it, I know how people love music and drive to Nashville. Everyone wants to go to the Bluebird Cafe…but what we are bringing here is basically the same thing,” Jody said. “It’s huge songwriters singing their hit songs and telling their stories, right here in Hall County. You can come out for $25 or you can buy a table for a group of 8. We love the charities that we continue to support; The Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier, The Good News Clinics, The Good News at Noon Shelter, SISU Integrated Learning and The Georgia Mountain Food Bank.”
We want to thank Jody for recently spending time with us and telling us more about his life and his love of Hall County.
Question: What do you love about being a part of the John Jarrard Foundation?
Answer: “There’s so many reasons. I think because I knew John pretty well. I just knew what John stood for, and he was just a very soulful, very passionate guy who had an amazing talent for writing songs. He struggled with Type 1 diabetes, he lost a leg. He lost a couple fingers. He had kidney transplants. He lost his eyesight. I mean he battled, he went through hell, but whenever you would see him on Music Row or somewhere, he just had the best attitude and always concerned how you were doing. I mean he’s just a real inspiration for anybody who thinks they’re going through hard times. After he passed away, it was such a hard thing for all of us who knew him well.” Everyone should live like John Jarrard did. Eager, positive and compassionate in spite of obstacles.
Q: Tell us about the lineup this year for the John Jarrard Foundation Concert?
A: “Every year we’ve had great shows with a lot of hits. Again, this year we’ve got very strong writers. Each have had somewhere between six and 12 hits; we’re going with these four songwriters plus Bruce Burch who’s another incredible songwriter with hit songs in his catalog. When you put all their hits together, it’s 25 or 30 huge songs that people will know almost every word to. We’ve been trying to get Wyatt Durette for a few years now. He’s the one who wrote all the Zac Brown hits. He, in fact, had “Chicken Fried” I think when he met Zac and they finished it together. I’ve just met Wyatt maybe two years ago. He such a cool guy. We are glad he’s here and he’s bringing Levi Lowery who is from the Dacula area. Levi is great, his grandfather was one of the main bluegrass guys in Georgia 50 or 60 years ago. Levy has a cool vibe and some great songs. He can also play several different string instruments. Lee Thomas Miller has had so many big hits, ‘Whiskey & You’ ‘In Color.’ He’s done the Bluebird for JJF and we go and see him every time we can in Nashville. The fourth one…Jonathan Singleton. He’s written a bunch of hits including (Luke Combs) ‘Beer Never Broke My Heart.’ It was literally No. 1 song in the country just a few weeks ago.”
Q: How did you get into the country music industry?
A: “Getting into Country (music) would be because of Bruce Burch but when I was working at Y106 in Atlanta, the biggest country radio station in the Southeast, I just got to know the artists, managers, record companies and booking agencies–so I knew a lot of them when I moved to Nashville. My brother (Wynn) and I had an independent promotion company and we were working with new artists like Shania Twain and Toby Keith, I had done a few shows with John Berry. Bruce called me one day and asked if I’d go out and road manage T Graham Brown, (one of the best singers ever). “When I hooked up with T. Graham, I told him I’d go on the road with him and I thought I’d do it for a couple of months and 14 years later I got off the bus. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, the people I met and the experiences that I had and the travel and music but it’s definitely a young man’s career.”
Q: What is your favorite thing about Hall County?
A: “Number one; the people. No. 2, Lake Lanier, I just love the lake. Everyone is so cool, friendly, and giving of their time and resources.. My first connection to Gainesville was Riverside Pharmacy’s Charles Johnson, a church piano player that everyone knew; he’s my mother’s first cousin, so that was the only family here. I went to high school with Donna Rodgers, the Wolf Man’s daughter and we were really good friends through high school and still keep in touch. I booked shows for the Wolf Man every Christmas when I was in Nashville…and then of course knowing Bruce Burch and John Jarrard in Nashville.
“We talk about the cities around Atlanta and all their urban development and growth and I’m very excited about all the improvements Gainesville has been making in the past few years in tourism, art and live music.” Also, I really like the rowing venue and so glad The JJF started doing our big concerts at that beautiful venue in the Spring. The Lake Show…. it’s a Blast!”
Q: What is your favorite restaurant in Hall County?
A: “I really like Longstreet, I love vegetables. I love their breakfast too. Luna’s is great, Avocados, Recess,…too many to name.”
Q: What three bands would you love to see (dead or alive)?
A: “My favorite band ever is The Rolling Stones, I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know Chuck Leavell (the band leader) he’s just a great guy and talent. The Allman Brothers, The Beatles , Eagles; they are all four up there. I tell people my favorite singers are Merle Haggard, Greg Allman and Tom Petty and ironically they all three passed away within 14 months of each other a few years ago. I truly hope the next generation can produce artist like we’ve had the last 50 years.”
Q: Do you have anything on your bucket list?
A: “To play golf at Augusta National. I love to play golf and that would be the ultimate to me as I’ve been going there and watching since I was a kid. You just can’t compare The Masters to anything.”
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be? And why?
A: “Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands. There’s a place down there named Foxy’s. Foxy is a man who just turned 80 and started a music school with a friend of mine from Roswell, GA named Tony Martin.Tony has coordinated amazing musicians who have donated instruments to the school. These middle school kids had never had an opportunity to learn and play music. It’s unreal how music can unite the world. A hurricane hit there a year or so ago and they’ve been rebuilding ever since. I want to get down there and see Foxy’s Music School. The problem is I’m not sure if I’d ever come back. Blue water, white sand and good people.”
Q: What advice would you give to others?
A: “Something my dad taught me was to always have a thirst for knowledge and not to judge, because you never know what someone else is going through and you might be dealing with it the same if you were in their shoes.”
Q: What three words mean HOME to you?
A: “God, family, happiness, health, and music. That’s five, but hey…..that’s home.”