Best wishes go out today to Grand Ole Opry member Stonewall Jackson, who is celebrating his 78th birthday. Stonewall was born on November 6, 1932 in Tabor City, North Carolina. And yes, Stonewall is is real name. He was named after the Civil War general.
Stonewall joined the Grand Ole Opry on November 3, 1956. He was the first member in the modern history of the Opry to be offered membership without having a major recording contract. His first release was in 1958 on Columbia Records and it was the song, "Don't Be Angry." His first big country hit was later in 1958 with the song, "Life to Go", which peaked at #2 on the billboard charts. The song, by the way, was written by George Jones. He followed up that record with "Waterloo", which was his 1st #1 record and stayed #1 for several weeks.
While he has had many chart records through the years, he would only hit #1 on one other occasion, and that was with his song, "B.J. the D.J.", which was #1 in early 1964. By the time his popularity started to end in the 1970's, he had 35 records on the country charts.
For the most part since joining the Opry, Stonewall was a very loyal member. However, as he became one of the Opry's senior members, his appearances on the Opry began to be cut back. In 2000, he made 37 appearances on the Opry. That was followed by 40 in 2001. Starting in 2002, his appearances started to decline. In 2002 he made 22 appearances, 21 in 2003 and 22 in 2004. He also became very vocal about his lack of appearances. In 2005 he made just 4 Opry appearances.
In 2006, Stonewall sued the Grand Ole Opry and its management for $10 million, claiming age discrimination. While I will not go into all the details of the lawsuit, Gaylord and Stonewall settled the suit on October 3, 2008. After making no appearances in 2006 and 2007 while the lawsuit was being processed, he returned to the show after the settlement. While terms were not released, Stonewall's Opry appearances began to increase from the pre-settlement level. In the later part of 2008 he made 10 Opry appearances. In 2009 he was on the show 27 times and so far in 2010, he has made 24 appearances.
Once again, congratulations to Stonewall Jackson on his 78th birthday.