For thousands of country fans, seeing a free Alan Jackson concert on Lake Martin in Alabama will be their favorite memory from the summer of 2009. The warm-and-fuzzy feeling from a hot, summer afternoon at the lake is something that Jackson knows well.
“This is where I came when I was a child. My family didn’t vacation much but what we did was go to the lake and that was it,” he told CMT Insider in July, just prior to his show. “We came about 90 miles across from Georgia in Alabama to Lake Martin and we camped over here in the state park. That’s where my love of boats and water and really most of my childhood memories of vacation [come from] — that’s on this lake right here. So it’s always been a place that I’ve loved. We came over here to Kowaliga and rode up and down the lake. It’s been 20-something years since I’ve been here. It’s really cool to come back here and do a concert right here on the water.”
Editor’s Note: Aquapalooza on Lake Martin debuts on Friday (Sept. 4) at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
CMT: You’ve been a boat guy for a long time, haven’t you?
Jackson: Oh, I grew up in the bow of the boat.
When was the first time you owned a boat?
Probably when I was 16. I mean, I had a little Jon boat when I was a kid. But when I was old enough to really pull it down the road … .
Do you restore them like cars?
Well, when I got old enough to make enough money to finally get some really cool wood boats like I’ve always loved — that’s a passion of mine. Those take a lot of work to upkeep and restore them. I have a lot of boats and a lot of old boats from the 1920s and ’30s and ’50s. I have a guy in Tennessee who looks after them.
What kind of boat did you drive up in?
That’s a 1923 Hacker Gold Cup race boat. It’s one of the ones they raced in the ’20s. They were the hot rods of that decade and that era. It’s a cool boat.
Let’s talk about that entrance.
Yeah, man, I had to kind of weave through the people in the water and boats. It’s pretty crazy.
What was it like going through all of those people?
I think it shocked a few of them. They weren’t expecting us to come through there with that old wood boat. I think it was fun for them. It was fun for me to get out there that close to the crowd the day before I get on stage and see what’s really going on out there.
Given your love of the water, I’d have to imagine it was pretty easy for you to decide that you wanted to do Aquapalooza.
Yeah. I’ve done a few lake shows in Tennessee, up on Center Hill Lake, and those are some of the best shows. You can’t charge people to come. It’s just kind of fun and you lay back [with] people that love the water and love being on the lake and being on their boats. They look for something to do and an event to go to, whether it’s a restaurant or the Fourth of July fireworks. Something like this concert is a cool thing to be able to go to in your boat and sit around and hang out with your family and your friends and goof off and have fun and enjoy the music. … This Aquapalooza show has been going on for several years at different lakes and it’s just good timing for me. It worked out that we were available to do this and they let us come be part of the show. It’s a great event and it’s on a lake that I love.
Is this something you might have come to back in the day?
Oh, definitely. If I hadn’t been on stage, I’d have been out there on the boat.
Have you looked at the place at the lake where Hank Williams wrote “Kaw-Liga”?
I’ve never been to the cabin. I knew it was here and I knew “Kaw-Liga” — that supposedly that’s where it all came from. Even when I was a young kid and we came over here, that was still the rumor then. I didn’t even know that much about Hank Williams at the time but I remember that story.
It kind of adds to the vibe.
Yeah, it’s pretty cool. He did come to this lake and he’s definitely a legend and a hero of mine, musically, so that’s even another cool factor about this show.
Talk about Children’s Harbor charity. Why have you chosen to support that?
A man that looks after my wood boats in Nashville has some connections with them. I don’t remember how it all started now but a few years ago they came to me. They do a wooden boat show — an antique boat show — every year to raise money and have auctions. … A few years ago, I gave them a wood boat to auction and the money all went to the charity for the children. I’ve given them two or three boats over the years. They do all kinds of events to raise money for Children’s Harbor that helps children that are ill and need help. It’s a good charity and it is special for me. Like I said earlier, this lake was real special to me as a child and a young person.
So I guess this is the closest thing to doing a hometown show without actually being in your hometown, isn’t it?
Yeah, that’s right.See photos from Aquapalooza.