True country music fans don’t need to be told just what a staunch supporter of the traditions of country music that Hall of Famer Alan Jackson has been throughout his career. It’s not just his musical resume, but moments like during the 1994 ACM Awards when he took off his tux to reveal a Hank Williams T-shirt, and directed his drummer to not hold sticks as he shadow played after the producers insisted Jackson sing to a backing track for the telecast.
Then there was the time at the 1999 CMA Awards when Jackson walked out on stage to perform his current single “Pop A Top,” and halfway through broke into “Choices” by his mentor George Jones, who the producers refused to let perform a full version. Alan Jackson also recorded the country music protest song “Murder on Music Row” with George Strait.
The list of times Alan Jackson stood up for country can go on of course, including many instances that are much less sensational and documented, but now all those efforts have been recognized in a unique and very rarely handed-out award by the Country Music Association called the “Joe Talbot Award.” First commissioned in 2001, it is meant to recognize individuals who show “outstanding leadership and contributions to the preservation and advancement of country music’s values and traditions.” Alan Jackson would certainly qualify.
Only seven other people have received the award, and Alan Jackson is only the fourth artist. George Jones won the award in 2015 posthumously, as did Merle Haggard in 2016. Marty Stuart also won the award in 2007.
“That’s pretty good company there with two of my heroes of all time, George and Merle,” Alan Jackson said when he was presented with the award on January 17th during a performance at the Ryman Auditorium. “I wish I could say something special about what I’m doing, but I just did what I liked, and I loved country music.”
Kitty Moon Emery, Louise Scruggs, and Janette Carter are the other Joe Talbot Award recipients, as well as Joe Talbot himself, who was a steel guitar player and lifetime member of the CMA Board of Directors who passed away in 2000. The award was christened the following year in honor of Talbot.
Country Music Association CEO Sarah Trahern said, “Alan Jackson has always stayed true to his roots. That’s why fans love him and it’s how he’s made such a considerable impact on our genre.”
There’s nothing flashy about the Joe Talbot Award. It’s is not televised and not many know about it. But it puts Alan Jackson in a very exclusive class of performers and individuals who devoted their lives to preserving country music, just like Alan Jackson has done.