George Jackson-Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971.

Label: Kent Soul.

When Dean Rudland and Tony Rouce were compiling the George Jackson compilation Old Friend The Fame Recordings Volume 3, which was released in late November 2013, they believed that there was only a handful of songs that had yet to be released. This was nowhere near enough for a fourth volume of recordings from the remarkable George Jackson, who was a truly prolific songwriter, but an occasional recording artist.

During his career, George Jackson penned over 300 songs, with artists of the calibre of James Carr, Wilson Pickett, Eddie Floyd, Clarence Carter, Z.Z. Hill, Candi Staton, Bettye Swann, Ann Peebles, Bobby Womack and Bob Seger recording his compositions. However, with George Jackson spending most of his time writing songs for other people, this left little time for him to pursue a recording career. As a result, George Jackson only released just one album and less than twenty singles. This wasn’t much to show for a truly talented singer-songwriter who had the potential to enjoy a long and successful career. However, George Jackson just like Sam Dees, seemed content to write songs for other artists.

It was only when Ace Records acquired the Goldwax Records and secured the licensing deals with Fame and Sound Of Memphis that  it became apparent that there was much more to  George Jackson’s discography than one album and less than twenty singles. Within the vaults of Goldwax Records, Fame and Sound Of Memphis there was what can only be described as a veritable feast of music baring George Jackson’s name. For connoisseurs of soul music this was  a tantalising prospect.

Ace Records’ Kent Soul imprint released their first George Jackson compilation In Memphis 1972-1977 in 2009. This musical amuse bouche certainly whetted the appetite of soul fans.

Over the next four years. a triumvirate of compilations featuring  songs George Jackson recorded whilst he was working at Fame were released by Kent Soul. This started with Don’t Count Me Out. The Fame Recordings Volume 1 was released two years later in 2011, with Let The Best Man Win: The Fame Recordings Volume 2 following in 2012. Just a year later in May 2013 The Fame Sessions was released on vinyl, and was an added bonus. Six months later in November 2013 came what was thought to be the third and final instalments in the series Old Friend: The Fame Recordings Volume 3. By then, it was thought that the cupboard was bare.

Despite Kent Soul having released what they believed to be the last of George Jackson’s solo recordings from his Fame years, soul fans were in for a pleasant surprise in January 2015. That was when George Jackson and Dan Greer At Goldwax was released. If all George Jackson’s Fame recordings had been released, then his Goldwax recordings were a welcome addition to his discography. However, fans of George Jackson were in for a pleasant surprise.

Just over two years later, and Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971 was released by Kent Soul. It features the rest of the unissued tracks from George Jackson’s days at Fame. None of these songs have been heard before, although many people will be familiar with the cover versions. However, the songs on Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971 were sung by the man who wrote them, and are a reminder of one of the greatest soul singers you’ve never heard. His story began in 1945.

George Jackson was born in March 1945, and spent the first five years of his life in Indianola, Mississippi. However, when he was five, the Jackson family decided to move to Greenville, in Washington County, where people soon realised that George Jackson was gifted musically.

From an early age, it was apparent to those around George Jackson that one day, he would embark upon a career as a singer or songwriter. He was a prodigious talent, and was already writing songs when he was just a teenager. Then when he was just eighteen, George Jackson met a famous producer.

Tis was none other than Ike Turner, who George Jackson met in 1963. Despite his Despite his youth, George Jackson found the confidence to introduce himself to Ike Turner. George Jackson told Ike Turner about his music and showed him some songs. Ike Turner was so impressed by George Jackson that he took him to New Orleans, to Cosimo Matassa’s studio. Together, they recorded Nobody Wants To Cha Cha With Me, which was then released on Ike Turner’s Prann label. While the single wasn’t a commercial success, it marked the start of George Jackson’s career. 

Two years later, in 1965, George Jackson recorded Rufus Come and Get Your Dog for the Doro label. However, again, commercial success eluded George Jackson. Despite two unsuccessful singles, George Jackson was determined to make a career out of music.

Later in 1965, George Jackson released Blinkity Blink as a single for Dot Records. Just like his two previous singles, Blinkity Blink failed to trouble the charts. This was a huge disappointment, and many artists would’ve considered calling time on their career. However, George Jackson was made of stronger stuff, and there was no way that he going to give up. Deep down, he knew he had what it took to make a career out of music.

After the commercial failure of Blinkity Blink, George Jackson decided to move to Memphis which had a vibrant and successful music scene. One of the most successful labels in Memphis was Stax Records, and arriving in Memphis George Jackson secured an audition at Stax. Incredibly, Stax passed on George Jackson, just like they had on James Carr. Little did they realise that they had  missed out on a prolific and talented singer and songwriter. 

Next stop for George Jackson was Goldwax Records, where he cofounded The Ovations with Louis Williams. George Jackson penned and sang on their 1965 classic, It’s Wonderful To Be In Love. It reached number twenty-two in the US R&B Chart, while reaching number sixty-one in the US Billboard 100. For George Jackson, this was his first hit single after two years of trying.

Soon, George Jackson was writing for other artists on Goldwax Records’ roster, and Spencer Wiggins and James Carr were beneficiaries of his songwriting skills. George Jackson also teamed up with Dan Greer, and formed the duo George and Greer. Alas, none of the songs this talented duo recorded for Goldwax Records were ever released. This was another disappointment for George Jackson. However, things got worse for George Jackson in 1968 when The Ovations split-up and this marked the end of his time at Goldwax Records.

 Having left Goldwax Records, George Jackson enjoyed a brief spell at Hi Records. He recorded a number of songs for Hi Records, but none of the songs were ever released. History was repeating itself, as this was what had happened to George and Greer at Goldwax Records. However, before long George Jackson was on the move again.

Following his spell at Hi Records, George Jackson signed to Decca and recorded a number of songs for his new label. When it came time to release them, George Jackson was billed as Bart Jackson. However, even a change of name didn’t result in a change of fortune for George Jackson, and he left Decca after failing to enjoy even a modicum of commercial success.

After Decca, George Jackson signed to Mercury and Capitol, but still commercial success eluded him. After three years of trying, George Jackson still hadn’t enjoyed a hit as a solo artist. This was hugely frustrating, as George Jackson knew he had what it took to enjoy a successful career within the music industry. All he needed was someone who could bring out the best in him. Fortunately, producer Billy Sherrill suggested George Jackson should get in touch with Rick Hall at Fame Records.

Fame Records at Muscle Shoals, was what George Jackson had spent the last few years looking form and when he arrived at the famous studio, it was like a homecoming of sorts. Straight away, he felt as if he belonged and was part of something. Buoyed by this new start, George Jackson’s career blossomed.

Soon, he was writing for some of Fame’s biggest stars. Among them were Candi Staton, Clarence Carter and Wilson Picket. George Jackson enjoyed instant success, when Clarence Carter’s Too Weak To Fight became a huge hit. It reached number thirteen in the US Billboard 100 and number three in the US R&B Charts. Buoyed by this success, George Jackson penned a string of hits for Fame’s artists. This included Candi Staton’s I’d Rather Be An Old Man’s Sweetheart (Than A Young Man’s Fool), I’m Just A Prisoner (Of Your Good Lovin’) and Never In Public. Then in 1970, George Jackson wrote what was the biggest hit single of his career so far

Originally, George had written with One Bad Apple with The Jacksons in mind. That was until The Osmonds visited Fame Studios in 1970. When they heard One Bad Apple immediately, they liked the song. They decided to record it and it gave them the first hit of their career. Not only did it reach number one in the US Billboard 200, but number six in the US R&B Charts. For any songwriter, including George Jackson, this was the ultimate accolade. However, despite writing a number one single, George Jackson hadn’t given up hope of becoming a successful singer.

Over the next couple of years, George Jackson divided his time between songwriting and singing. He continued to be a prolific and successful songwriter, but occasionally headed into the recording studio to record a new song.

As a singer, he was noted for his versatility and ability to make lyrics come to life. If lyrics needed hurt, heartache or hope or anything from despair to joy George Jackson could deliver that. Despite this, commercial success eluded him. A reminder of this is Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971 which features twenty-four unreleased songs.

George Jackson wrote many songs on Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971 on his own. This included the ballad Don’t Tell Me Nothing About My Baby, where George Jackson’s delivers a vocal full of frustration at the betrayal he’s experiencing as the arrangement fuses blues, gospel and R&B. George Jackson’s vocal is full of hurt and despair on the uptempo If This Is Love, before he drop the tempo and lays bare his soul on the beautiful, rueful ballad I Wish I Was A Child Again 

On Two Way Proposition George Jackson duets with Marjorie Ingram who was a young singer that he mentored. George Jackson had taught Marjorie Ingram well and she provides the perfect foil for him. Sadly, this is their only duet on the compilation.

George Jackson also wrote I Got To Stop You Road Runner, where blues and soul combine on this tale of betrayal. Very different is the ballad Your Love Is So Good where it seems that George Jackson has found happiness. However, it’s with someone else’s wife on a song that is reminiscent of Billy Paul’s Me and Mrs Jones. Keep Your Business To Yourself is a really catchy, radio friendly song that might have been the one that got away for George Jackson. Wait Till The Time Is Right is song about clandestine love where George Jackson paints pictures with the lyrics.

The rest of the songs on Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971 were penned with a variety of songwriting partners, including Raymond Moore. They wrote a number of songs on the compilation including A Woman Respects A Man, the beautiful ballad A Few Precious Moments and the stomping confessional You Caught Me Red Handed. However, Raymond Moore was just one of George Jackson’s songwriting partners. 

He also wrote a number of songs with Edward Harris, including I Got A Feeling which opens the compilation and features a vocal where George Jackson sings about the hurt and betrayal he’s experienced. George Jackson then delivers an emotive vocal full of frustration on What Kind Of Woman Are You? It’s another tale of betrayal and deception that George Jackson brings to life. That is the case throughout the compilation.

On his collaboration with Earl Cage, George Jackson delivers a vocal full of regret on I Slowly Killed Your Love For Me. One of George Jackson’s vocals comes on the heart-wrenching ballad Quicksand Around My Mind which he wrote with George Brown. Then George Jackson he lays bare his soul on Never In Public which he wrote with Aaron McKinley. It’s just the latest hidden gem that was recently unearthed by Kent Soul for the Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971 compilation.

 It’s a welcome addiction to George Jackson’s discography and covers what was the most prolific and successful period of his career…the Fame Years. The time George Jackson spent at Fame saw him write some of the best and most successful songs of his career. However, that is only part of this three-year story.

Right up until George Jackson left Fame in 1972, he was more successful as a songwriter than singer. He wrote many hits for other artists, but his singles never troubled the charts. This must have frustrated George Jackson.

Despite his lack of commercial success, George Jackson continued to record songs during his time at Fame. Some of the songs feature on Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971. Often he was backed with a full band, while other times the arrangement are understated. Still, though the music is powerful and poignant as George Jackson who was blessed a hugely, soulful, emotive, expressive and mesmeric voice, breathes life and meaning into the lyrics. Sadly, commercial success eluded George Jackson who nowadays, is better known as a songwriter than a singer.

That is a great shame as George Jackson had the talent, desire and voice to become a successful singer, but sadly that never happened. Not even at Fame, where George Jackson had access to a top producers and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. However, George Jackson spent most of his time writing songs for other artists.

That is often the case when talented songwriters who just happen to be singers, sign to a record label. Those running the label sometimes are more concerned with getting them to write songs, not record them. After all, it takes time and money to develop an artist’s career. Maybe record company executives thought that George Jackson, like other artists who were successful songwriters, would be better employed writing songs? After all, that was what George Jackson was good at. Looking back, maybe that was the case with George Jackson?

If that was the case, then George Jackson’s success as a songwriter was a double-edged sword? The more success he enjoyed, the less chance he had of becoming a successful singer. Record companies would rather George Jackson spent his time writing, rather than recording songs. This must have been frustrating for George Jackson, who wanted to be a star, not the star-maker. Sadly, that never happened, and nowadays, George Jackson is remembered primarily as a songwriter and occasional recording artist, whose musical legacy includes the songs on Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971. 

George Jackson-Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971.

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