All across the United States of America, student-aged youngsters are turning their summer smiles into school year frowns as they once again acquiesce to the indoctrination of academia. But for one high school in Jackson, Kentucky, they got a pleasant and completely unplanned surprise when Grammy Award-winning hometown hero Sturgill Simpson showed up to serenade students.
On Friday (8-31), Sturgill Simpson showed up to Highland-Turner Elementary School, and the Breathitt County High School in Jackson unannounced to play music for the student body, and to speak to them about the success he’s found in music. Rising from a completely unknown Kentucky songwriter, to playing multiple times on Saturday Night Live, winning the 2017 Grammy for Best Country Album, and being nominated right beside artists like Beyonce, Justin Bieber, Drake, and Adele for Album of the Year, success is certainly something Sturgill Simpson can speak to.
“It was really cool for the students to see someone who has succeeded in that way,” said Principal Carolyn McDaniel Breathitt County High School. Sturgill stopped by every class in the school to speak and play, and posed with students for pictures.
Some local news outlets covered the event, but seemed to be puzzled themselves of why Sturgill decided to make the trek to Jackson. Even though Simpson was born and raised in the town of 2,000 as the offspring of coal miners, he didn’t graduate from Breathitt High School. Since his father worked as an undercover policeman in the area, the family decided to move to Versalles, Kentucky outside of Lexington when Sturgill was growing up, and he attended Woodford County High School.
However the reason Sturgill decided to visit Jackson can be heard right there in the words to his song “Pan Bowl.”
I’d give anything to go back, days I was young
All the way back to Pan Bowl, I sit down on the lake bed, stare at the sun
Then I’d walk out in the water, let it cleanse my soul
Spend my days up on Quicksand, there I would play, wild as a rattlesnake
Right from the start, I’d push August in, swing all day
Well she was the first girl that ever broke my heart….
Sturgill Simpson’s song “Pan Bowl” from his magnum opus Metamodern Sounds in Country Music is about the thin, meandering, pan-shaped lake that once was a loop of the Kentucky River, and is now a favorite local fishing hole right north of Jackson, Kentucky proper and the Breathitt County High School. Quicksand is a town just down the road. Being the last day of August made Sturgill’s visit even more appropriate. Art imitating life, if you will.
This wasn’t a PR trick by Sturgill Simpson. There were no reporters present. It was just a trip down memory lane. And now the students of Breathitt County High School have their own memories to share.
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In March, Sturgill Simpson was named a Kentucky Colonel, and recognized by the State Legislature.