Meet the man behind many of the most memorable horn lines in music history, trumpet legend Wayne Jackson, co-founder of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award Winning Memphis Horns. He recorded a hit song his first time in the studio. He performed on 53 number ones, 83 gold and platinum records, 110 top tens. He toured the world and shared the stage with many of the most influential artists in music. It’s safe to say Wayne Jackson was a man on a musical mission.
Born in Memphis on November 24, 1941, and raised in West Memphis, Arkansas, Wayne’s love of music began with a guitar. Then one fateful night his mother came home with a trumpet for her eleven-year-old son, and the rest as they say is history.
He played in the West Memphis High School band taking top honors at the local and state level, and by 12th grade he found himself playing in a group called The Mar-Keys, which included future fellow legends, Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn. It was 1961 when they scored a hit instrumental, "Last Night," that shot up to #2 on the R&B chart.
What followed was an incredible journey at Stax Records as part of the Stax house band playing on songs that have never left the airwaves with a powerhouse roster of artists - Otis Redding ("Dock of the Bay," "Try A Little Tenderness"), Sam & Dave ("Hold On I’m Comin’," "Soul Man"), Rufus Thomas ("Walking The Dog"), Eddie Floyd ("Knock On Wood"), Albert King ("Born Under A Bad Sign"), Wilson Pickett ("In The Midnight Hour") to name just a few.
Not only did Wayne and his saxophone partner, Andrew Love, record at Stax, but also many other studios such as Royal, American, Memphis Recording, Fame in Muscle Shoals, Atlantic in NYC. When asked to be exclusive to Stax in 1969, the duo opted to leave the Stax payroll and incorporate as The Memphis Horns on June 19th of that year. They began offering their signature sound for any artist who needed them, whether in the studio…Neil Diamond ("Sweet Caroline"), Elvis Presley ("Suspicious Minds"), Aretha Franklin ("Think"), Al Green ("Let’s Stay Together"), Dusty Springfield ("Son Of A Preacher Man"), or on the road…Stephen Stills, Rod Stewart, The Doobie Brothers.
By the mid-Seventies, Memphis was changing, and music was changing. Wayne decided to move to Nashville and trade in life on rock and roll jetliners for life on a billy bus. He spent three years traveling the road with country music legend, Marty Robbins, during which time he became the first horn player ever allowed to play on the Grand Ole Opry.
He and Andrew still did sessions together whenever they could, but work was getting harder to come by. They also explored their own musical paths during this time. In 1978, Andrew put out an instrumental album recorded with friends called "Memphis Horns II." Six years later in 1984, Wayne wrote and recorded ten songs with friends Frank Green, Bucky Lindsey and Fred James for a vocal album called "Wayne Jackson and The Memphis Horns Band." As he told co-producer, Frank Green, he wanted the world to hear another side of him…Wayne Jackson the singer.
However the project was not released, and fate seemed to have other things in mind, namely Peter Gabriel. When Peter’s call came for a session, Andrew was in Dallas playing at a club called "Memphis" and unable to make the gig. Wayne went on to New York, and his work on the groundbreaking song "Sledgehammer" propelled The Memphis Horns back on top. The phone started ringing. For the next three years Wayne and Andrew would tour with Jimmy Buffett, followed by Joe Cocker and Robert Cray. Sessions were rolling in throughout the Eighties and Nineties with U2 ("Angel Of Harlem"), Steve Winwood ("Roll With It"), Sting ("Mercury Falling"), Bonnie Raitt ("Longing In Their Hearts"), B.B. King ("Blues Summit"), Billy Joel ("Stormfront"), and many more.
Always a songwriter, a crowning achievement for Wayne came in 1999 when he scored his first gold record for songwriting with Amy Grant’s recording of “Christmas Can’t Be Very Far Away,” which he co-wrote with Songwriter Hall of Fame legend Roger Cook.
By 2004 Andrew had retired, and Wayne continued on recording albums with artists such as Neil Young ("Prairie Wind"), Jack White and The Raconteurs ("Consolers Of The Lonely"), Buddy Guy ("Living Proof").
In 2008 Wayne was inducted into the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame, and Wayne and Andrew were inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame.
2010 rolled around, and after fourteen years in Nashville, Wayne and wife Amy decided to move back home to Memphis. It was perfect timing considering what was soon to happen. On February 11, 2012, Wayne and Andrew, The Memphis Horns, received the highest honor in the recording arts and sciences…the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Two months later, Andrew passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s.
Reflecting on their partnership Wayne said, “It was like magic. His individual tone and mine blended in a certain way that was unique. We realized it from the start. You can’t make that kind of stuff happen. It was fate.”
During the next several years, Wayne would complete his trilogy of books about his life, “In My Wildest Dreams - Take 1, Take 2, Take 3,” support music education by offering his wisdom and encouragement to high school bands and share his first hand account of music history at events and special tours of the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. Wayne passed away on June 21, 2016, having had a truly magical ride.
But the story wasn’t over. As the decades had rolled along, Wayne’s album became a distant memory. That is until one day in July of 2017 when Amy received an unexpected email from Wayne’s co-producer, Frank Green, saying the never-before-heard, lost recordings had been found. Amazingly, the story of Wayne Jackson was continuing to unfold!
With the release of "The Lost Nashville Sessions" featuring Wayne singing solo on "Abandoned Heart," his prophetic statement from so long ago is coming true, “I’m a singer, and before it's all over, the world’s gonna know it.”