Alan Jackson surrounded himself with the most important women in his life on Tuesday afternoon (Aug. 29) in Nashville to celebrate the platinum success of his gospel album, Precious Memories. Jackson’s wife Denise, their three daughters, his mother Ruth Jackson and Denise’s mother Nell all gathered at the chapel in the Sony BMG building on Music Row as he distributed plaques in front of a crowd of industry well-wishers.
“It was just a present for my mama,” Jackson said, talking about how the album came to be. “As long as I can remember, since I started making records, she’d say, ‘When are you going to make me a gospel album?’ We finally got around to it. It was something we threw together in a couple of days for a Christmas present. We made about 20 or 30 copies … and we were going to give them to friends and family and so forth.”
One of those discs went to Sony BMG’s label head Joe Galante. After listening to it on vacation in California, Galante asked Jackson to release the album nationally. Since February, the homegrown project has shipped more than 1 million copies.
“It’s definitely been amazing,” Jackson said. “I’m very taken with a number of comments I’ve had everywhere I go. Fans and people I don’t know — not just from my mama’s generation but people 20 years old — will walk up with a copy of that album for me to sign. It’s been really interesting to see how many people have enjoyed and been touched by that album. My wife said, ‘If you just put it out, it will sell a lot,’ and she was right.”
After thanking the label and his producer Keith Stegall, Jackson brought Denise and their daughters Mattie, Ali and Dani onstage to acknowledge their personal contributions.
“Denise was really helpful and an inspiration in helping me put this together because she’s a big fan of this music and grew up like me, listening to it and singing in choirs,” Jackson said. “So we sat down with a Baptist hymnal and started going through picking out songs we thought our mothers would like and were appropriate to what we were doing. It was tough. We sat down and started singing all these things, and I hadn’t sung some of these in a long time. Especially the verses. I knew the choruses pretty good.”
At Jackson’s request, Denise, Mattie and Ali all sang on Precious Memories. Dani lent a hand with water bottles in the studio, Jackson said. “I think that was fun for them to be on there and I was very proud to have them. When I’m an old man, I can listen to that and it will be very sweet.”
Jackson then invited Ruth Jackson and Nell Jackson to the stage. “They’re a big part of this as well,” he told the crowd. “My mama made me go to church when I was little. I’m sure at the time I didn’t like it at all. I just remember going because I had to. They’d drop you off, and you didn’t have a choice. You’d just go to church. But one thing I remember, and I’ve always loved, is the melodies that have stuck in my head all these years. Those songs are so memorable and the sound of that big organ in that church. It always moved me.”
After thanking his mother for being so persistent about recording a collection of gospel songs, Jackson grinned and said, “I think she’s finally got an album she’s not ashamed to play for all her friends.” When the crowd’s hearty laughter faded, he added, “Some of my stuff is a little bit too honky-tonk. We’ve cut a lot of pretty songs that they’ve loved, both of them, but this has been their favorite, I can tell.”
To honor his mother and his mother-in-law, Jackson also presented both women with personal checks for $100,000, which they gave to their favorite charities.