Put it this way: "Wayne can hear grass growin'!"
Robert Talley — Memphis keyboardist, composer, arranger, and musical mentor — said so. "Wayne" is Wayne Jackson, the trumpet-playing half, along with the late saxophonist Andrew Love, of the famed Memphis Horns. And according to Jackson, he's never had a better compliment.
Let's hear it, though, from the man himself: "My trumpet tone was sweet the first time I played a note," Jackson writes in the first volume of his memoirs, In My Wildest Dreams: Take 1. "Bright and airy with a dark streak running down the middle. ... And I don't know why, but there is a tiny tremor in it, too. I laugh and say, 'There's a tear in every tone.'"
"[T]he people ate it up," Jackson also writes.
Yes, they did eat it up ... from fellow studio and stage musicians, to club-goers and arena-size crowds. Jackson was there: on stages from West Memphis to Memphis and beyond and on hit songs, beginning with "Last Night" (when Jackson was playing with Memphis' Mar-Keys in 1961), through to his additional work at Stax, Hi, American Sound in Memphis, the studios of Muscle Shoals, and beyond.
Was there an R&B, soul, rock, or pop classic with a horn section that Jackson didn't have a hand in, put his sound to? It isn't too much to say: seemingly not. Not when you consider 49 #1 records, 112 Top 10 records, 83 gold and platinum records, and 15 Grammy-winning records. And not when you consider the individuals and bands, in no particular order, Jackson worked with: Booker T. & the MGs, Otis Redding, Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, Sam & Dave, Eddie Floyd, Aretha Franklin, the Box Tops, B.J. Thomas, Elvis Presley, Neil Diamond, Dusty Springfield, Isaac Hayes, Al Green, Ann Peebles, plus Cher, the Doobie Brothers, Rod Stewart, Stephen Stills, Sting, and who are we leaving out? Go to the partial (the key word is "partial") discography in In My Wildest Dreams: Take 1 (which takes us through to 1969) and Take 2 (covering the '70s) to find out, with a third volume on the way — volumes based on Jackson's notebooks, journals, and letters and edited by Jackson's wife, Amy.
Big-time publishers, Amy Jackson writes in her Foreword to Take 1, weren't, however, interested. Not enough "dirt on rock stars" was what Wayne and Amy were told. So be it. The couple have published the memoirs themselves. And readers don't need dirt. They're better off with the sweet sound of Wayne Jackson translated to the printed page: honest about the good times and some not-so-good times, at home in West Memphis, on the road the world over, above all and throughout, Jackson thankful to have had such a career.
It's a career that began with a guitar from his parents when Jackson was 7 years old and a trumpet when the boy was 11, back in the West Memphis of the 1940s and '50s, with Jackson married to his first wife and not even out of high school, working to raise a family, making ends meet every which way. The sky was the limit, however, thanks to Jackson's early and ongoing interest in planes and piloting. But when Jackson was starting out professionally, Memphis across the river was strictly down-to-earth: bright lights, big city, nonstop nightlife.
Take 1 takes us there: into night spots like the Jungle Inn, Lil' Abner's Rebel Room, the Volcano Club, the Diplomat Club, the Red Velvet Club, and the Sands (where the Mar-Keys played one Friday night and returned on Saturday night, only to find that the place had been dynamited). Jackson describes the Memphis music scene in the early '60s as, simply put, "possibly the biggest and longest party ever to be thrown in any town." The proof? It's in these pages.
As are references to the city's and the South's racial divides at the time, which pained Jackson then and pains him now to recall. The color line: That's a line that Wayne Jackson (who is white) and Andrew Love (who was black) didn't have to cross for the plain reason that as partners in music making and in life, the line didn't exist.
Drinking and drugs, no surprise and especially on the road, did exist, and Jackson's no saint in those departments. Doesn't pretend to be in his Wildest Dreams. Gentleman, deep down, though: That's how readers of Take 1 and Take 2 will see Wayne Jackson. Coming soon: Take 3.