It’s been a very busy few days for Jamey Johnson. On Saturday night (12-16), Johnson actively participated in the debut of viral star Oliver Anthony on the Grand Ole Opry. The two performed “In Color” together, after Oliver Anthony figured out how to cheese off various folks—some for issuing his “Fudge Rounds” line in “Rich Men North of Richmond,” and others for issuing multiple swear words from the hallowed Opry stage, including a couple that made it past the WSM censors on the official broadcast.
Then on Sunday (12-17), Jamey Johnson was featured significantly on the Willie Nelson 90th Birthday Special that aired on CBS after it was recorded this spring. Not only was Johnson featured in the house band, he also performed “Georgia On My Mind” with Warren Haynes and Booker T Jones.
But on Friday, December 15th, Jamey Johnson was back in his home state of Alabama, and at his alma mater, Jacksonville State University, where he gave the commencement speech to the graduating class. Johnson also learned that Alabama Governor Kay Ivey had declared December 15th as “Jamey Johnson Day” henceforth, and that he was receiving an honorary doctorate from the university.
Johnson attended Jacksonville State in 1993 to study music education, receiving a full scholarship to attend due to his skills with the mellophone and French horn. Johnson performed in the university’s “Marching Southerners.” He then left the university to enlist in the Marine Corps. where he served for eight years before pursuing music full time as a songwriter.
“I was gonna write a speech,” Johnson said as he took the podium. “But like everything else I did while I was here at Jacksonville State I have procrastinated until the last possible second.”
Johnson went on to explain how he’d always chosen the hardest path forward in life. French horn was the hardest instrument to play, so he chose it. When that wasn’t hard enough and he was tired of everyone telling him what to do to keep his scholarship, he joined the Marine Corps. When The Marines wanted to put him in the Marine Corps. band, Johnson decided instead to join the infantry.
“I don’t like long commencement speeches either, so I’m going to go ahead and duck out here,” Johnson concluded. “But I’m gonna tell you one thing. I’m proud of every single one of y’all. And when life kicks you, get up again. Go find another way. That’s just one more way that don’t work. Who cares? Put it in the box, slide it over behind you, and march on. Love you. Go Cocks.”
On Thursday (12-14), Johnson also helped announce the “Jamey Johnson Music Series” at Jacksonville State that will help students learn from successful recording artists and songwriters through performances, workshops, and lectures. It was part of a performance at the Randy Owen Center for the Performing Arts where Johnson was joined by Randy Owen, Riley Green, and Gordon Mote.
You can see Johnson’s introduction and commencement speech below.