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 George Edward “Leo” Jackson

George Edward “Leo” Jackson

Meridian, Lauderdale County, Mississippi, USA
Death 4 May 2008 (aged 73)
Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee, USA
Burial Hendersonville, Sumner County, Tennessee, USA
Memorial ID 27819882 · View Source
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George Edward "Leo" Jackson

George Edward "Leo" JACKSON died at age of 73 in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, on May 4, 2008.

Mr. Jackson played lead guitar for the late Jim Reeves and was the first Blue Boy Band member hired by Jim Reeves.

He also recorded with the group Alabama and George Strait, and many others.

He is survived by his wife of 43 years, Nell Walls Jackson and his son, Leo D. Jackson, both of Goodlettsville; 4 grandchildren also survive.

Funeral services will be conducted at 2 p.m. on Thursday, May 8, 2008 from the Chapel of Hendersonville Funeral Home, with Rev. Jimmy Snow officiating.

Honorary Pallbearers will include Jim Pierce, Arnie Benoni, Billy Hodges, Jimmy Pomonis and James Kirkland. Family members will serve as Active Pallbearers.

Interment will be in Hendersonville Memory Gardens.

Notice that the minister who will preside over the funeral is Rev. Jimmy Snow, who is Hank Snow's son. Jimmy had also officiated at a Jim Reeves memorial service in 1964.

Also please note that the only surviving Blue Boy, James Kirkland, will be an honorary pallbearer.

Written by Larry Jordan:

With the tragic passing of George "Leo" Jackson, an incredible life's journey has come to an untimely and unexpected end. Aside from Mary, there was nobody who was closer to Jim Reeves than Leo, who traveled the world with him, was like a son to Jim and Mary, and literally stood at Jim's side on stages large and small as they played thousands of venues.

Born on October 22, 1934 in Meridian, Mississippi — Jimmie Rodgers' hometown — Leo was the son of a Greek immigrant father, who was often abusive toward him. When his mother died, he left home rather than be subjected to further mistreatment by his stepmother. Though he and his father ultimately reconciled, Leo was in the truest sense a self-made man. He succeeded in spite of the difficulties he experienced in his early life, and perhaps because of them.

A self-taught musician, Leo said "I would listen to the radio and listen to records. My sister Eloise had a real good ear and she'd tell me ‘naw, you ain't got it yet...that's it honey, that's it honey. You got it now.' So that's the way I learned. She'd be there ironing clothes, and I'd be listening to a record. I'd buy a 78 record and slow it down to 45. So if she told me I had it right, then it was right."

Leo also found it helpful to observe other guitar players at work. "You listen and pay attention and watch," he said. "In particular Jimmy Dickens came to town and worked at the movie theaters. They would play on the stage. I would get there early so I would have a front seat and then I would watch the guitar player. [One] time they had two guitar players and it really screwed me up. I didn't know who to watch," Leo laughed.

Once he moved to Texas, John and Clara Ross and their children befriended Leo and treated him like a member of the family. They happened to know JIm Reeves and took Leo to meet the famous singer in Shreveport one day. Impressed with the young man's talent, Jim hired him in May 1954. In fact, the Reeveses invited him to live with them, which he did, on and off, for about five years.

"If it hadn't been for Mary, I probably wouldn't have any education at all," Leo said humbly. "I quit school in the sixth grade. I got my education on the road with Jim and Mary and living with them. They were family." Mary taught Leo manners, how to speak and how to eat. Leo admitted that "I probably had the mentality of a 15 year old coming out of Mississippi" and that he didn't always appreciate Jim's fatherly advice: "I used to get so mad... And I finally realized it was for my own good, my own best interests. I quit a couple times and came home because he was trying to tell me what to wear. [But I later realized] he was only trying to help me."

But Leo helped Jim, as well, by shaping his sound. Jim became so dependent on young Mr. Jackson that when they were onstage, if Jim didn't think Leo was standing close enough, he would reach around and pull him closer. Although Leo was not on the session when Jim recorded "He'll Have To Go," Reeves had a vibraphone emulate Leo's trademark tremolo sound.

I met Leo Jackson 39 years ago when, as a teenager, I first visited Mary Reeves, at her invitation, in Nashville. I was of course impressed by his virtuosity on guitar, but also by the exuberance and good humor with which he approached life. One subject he never got tired of talking about was his mentor, Jim Reeves.

During my subsequent visits with Mary I saw Leo again, but really got to know him some years later when I called him up one Sunday afternoon to press some questions about my favorite singer. We wound up talking for about three hours!

When that dreadful pseudo-biography on Jim came out in 1998, Leo and I commiserated with each other about it. We both agreed it was a travesty. Leo was the first person to whom I broached the subject of my writing an accurate bio on Reeves. He was highly enthusiastic and pledged his support. After I sent him a couple of early chapters, he was so pleased, he vouched for me when I needed to convince Joyce and others to help me as well.

Over the years, I have had countless conversations with Leo, almost all of which I recorded (with his knowledge and permission).

We can take some comfort in the fact that Leo left behind a wealth of information about Jim which I had elicited through my extensive questioning of him over the years. My research routinely prompted new questions, and this in turn, he often said, triggered his memory about things that he had not thought about -- or discussed with anyone else -- for years. I'm not exaggerating when I say I have asked him THOUSANDS of questions, and have his replies on tape. I quote him extensively.

Yes, as you might imagine, I am very saddened that he didn't live long enough to read the finished manuscript, which it has taken me so many years to produce. But he DID read chapters in progress and was always highly complimentary.

Leo was the next best thing to interviewing Jim Reeves.

I loved talking with Leo; it was always interesting, as our conversations were filled with his warm reminiscences and plenty of humor.

I was often impressed by the depth of feeling this man had not only for his music, but also for the people who were dear to him. I've perused scores of handwritten cards and letters he sent to his friends over the years and he was a sentimentalist to be sure.

The details of Leo's death will probably be released by the press in the days ahead, (I am privy to them now), and will lead to speculation about his state of mind at the end. I have to believe that he was suffering from the side effects of some potent medication he was given after his surgery earlier in the week. Leo loved life, his wife Nell, his son, his grandchildren, and his many friends around the world.

Jim Reeves would never have been as great as he was without the help and steadfast devotion of Leo Jackson. I pray that they are experiencing a joyful reunion now in heaven.





  • Created by: Roger Vick
  • Added: 25 Jun 2008
  • Find A Grave Memorial 27819882
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for George Edward “Leo” Jackson (22 Oct 1934–4 May 2008), Find A Grave Memorial no. 27819882, citing Hendersonville Memory Gardens, Hendersonville, Sumner County, Tennessee, USA ; Maintained by Roger Vick (contributor 46868454) .