We’re fed up with the Big C, that sorry thief in the night that just stole another good person. Cancer’s latest victim was a local musician, songwriter, guitar builder, music teacher, deluxe storyteller, and genuinely funny guy. Greg Jackson was 69. The longtime Arlington resident died on Saturday at his home, sitting upright on his couch, said David Giddens, who was among a handful of people visiting Jackson when he died.
Cancer took Jackson’s wife Kay last spring. Jackson became ill a few months later and was diagnosed with lung cancer in August.
Jackson, who often described his music career as “funner than having your own duck,” played in many bands over the years but was most associated with the Salt Lick Foundation. That band’s debut album, Rural Lust & Urban Rust, dropped in 1980, followed by Daynce of the Peckerwoods in 1982, and Salt Lick Sockeroos in 1985. The bluegrass band continued to play and record for another three decades. Dr. Demento, the nationally syndicated radio host who specialized in the bizarre, took a shining to Salt Lick in the 1980s and made them frequent guests on The Dr. Demento Show over the years.
Bandmate Michael H. Price described Jackson as “a role model for the art of living joyously.”
Other bands that included Jackson were the Draught String Band, Buffalo Grass, Bluebonnet Plague, City Lights Singers, Musical Miscreants, Self-Righteous Brothers, and the Bruton & Price Swingmasters Revue.
Jackson and his sister, Kathleen, anchored Tanstaafl Pub’s Thursday night acoustic bluegrass jam sessions for years. Kathleen plays a mean upright bass, and her brother was a badass on numerous stringed instruments but particularly guitar and dobro. He wrote heartfelt songs but might have been most appreciated for his many humorous, offbeat novelty songs such as “Short’nin’ Men (The Ballad of Lorena Bobbitt)” and politically satirical ditties. All were delivered with a deep, booming voice and twinkling eyes.
We first met Jackson in the mid-1990s at Tanstaafl Pub and were blown away by his knowledge of guitar chords and his ability to play a tasty lead break while also keeping rhythm and alternating bass going simultaneously.
Giddens, too, met Jackson for the first time at one of those Thursday night jams about 20 years ago. Shortly after, Giddens signed up for guitar and dobro lessons with the man he described as “ornery, generous, and patient, often simultaneously.”
His new teacher’s favorite line for struggling students: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t, bankers and lawyers would do it.”
Jackson didn’t just teach music. He taught people, or, more accurately, showed by example how to traverse life’s peaks and valleys with humor and grace intact. Giddens took to his Facebook page, writing about how he and Jackson spent “several well lubricated years alternating between instrument instruction and construction, and his hilarious storytelling. It was as good an education as I ever had in any endeavor.”