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Shot Jackson
Born:  September 4, 1920
Died:  January 24, 1991
Steel Guitar Hall of Fame (1986)
KWKH Louisiana Hayride
WSM Grand Ole Opry
WWVA Original Jamboree
WMBR Jacksonville, FL
WSM Nashville, TN
WWVA Wheeling, WV

About The Artist

Harold Bradley Jackson gained renown as an expert player of both the Dobro and electric steel guitar during a forty-year career as a musician. He also developed and manufactured several models of both instruments. His company was known as Sho-Bud (originally in partnership with Buddy Emmons). In addition to the recordings under his own name and with his wife Donna Darlene, he was most noted as a sideman with among others the Bailes Brothers, Johnnie & Jack, Kitty Wells, and Roy Acuff,

Born in Wilmington North Carolina, Jackson's parents moved to Blackshear, Georgia as a child. Acquiring the nickname "Buckshot," it was soon shortened to Shot and so widely used that few later musical friends even knew his real name.

Learning guitar at seventeen, he soon switched to the Hawaiian style. In 1941, he started band work (George Smith and the Rhythm Ramblers) at WMBR in Jacksonville, Florida. He stayed with them until 1943. In 1944 started to play with Cousin Wilbur [Wesbrooks] which brought him to WSM Nashville. He joined the U. S. Navy in 1945 which used his services as an entertainer. He got as far as Shoemaker, CA but his "gear" was shipped overseas. While serving, he recorded one show a week for overseas use by the SeaBees Network. Shot returned to WSM at the start of 1946 and joined the Bailes Brother and their West Virginia Home Folks as a sideman. In 1947, the group left for Shreveport, LA and were there during the start of the KWKH Louisiana Hayride.

Promo Ad - Oak Grove H. S. Auditorium - Bailes Brothers - Shot Jackson - Ray Belcher - Abner Abbernacky - Ernest Ferguston - October 1946
Promo Ad - Jimmie Thompson's Arena - Alexandria, LA - Wilburn Brothers - Webb Pierce - Shot Jackson - Carolina Sunshine Girls - Johnny Johnson and the Sandy Mountain Boys - Toby Sneezleweed - June 1951

Jackson recorded with the Bailes Brothers on both King and Columbia. At that time, Johnnie and Jack and the BAiles Brothers worked together. In 1948, he joined Johnnie & Jack as a fill-in and when they decided to leave Shreveport for Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry, Shot went with them. He played on their first Victor session in 1949. Ray Atkins returned as their Dobro player until 1951 when Shot returned for a longer stint with the Tennessee Mountain Boys. In between he had worked and recorded with Webb Pierce, Red Sovine, Jimmie Osborne, Ruby Wells and a single under his own name for Pacemaker.

A feature on Shot in Pickin' and Singin's "Sidewise" column revealed details of how he tuned his double neck Fender steel guitar. Each had 7 strings. He tuned one neck in "E" and the other in "A."

Promo Ad - Skyway Club - Shreveport, LA - Webb Pierce and his Southern Valley Boys - Shot Jackson - June 1951
Promo Ad - Johnnie and Jack and their Tennessee Mountain Boys - Shot Jackson - Paul Warren - Danceland - Ft Worth, TX - October 1951

During his years with the Tennessee Mountain Boys Jackson also played steel on Kitty Wells' early Decca offerings. Eddie Stubbs points out that on the same day, May 3, 1952, Shot played on Kitty's first hit, "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels," Shot under his own name cut four songs for Specialty Records. The Tennessee Mountain Boys under a different name have a sound quite similar to that of Johnnie and Jack. He was also on Johnnie and Jack's hit, "Oh Baby Mine" and the duet by Red Foley and Kitty Wells, "One By One."

On a personal note, the 1954 feature on Shot revealed what he did when he had time off at home. Besides hunting, fishing, and gardening, he would cook for his friends outside in an open barbecue it that he and Jack Anglin built. Shot married the former Viva Hopkins from Ripley, Tennessee in August 1947. They had a son Harold Bradley, Jr. at the time and Roy Acuff took a liking to him and called him "Half Shot."

Promo Ad - Dunbar Cave - Roy Acuff - Kitty Wells - Johnny and Jack - Eddie Hill - Shot Jackson - Clarksville, TN - April 1955
Promo Ad - Louisiana Hayride - Shreveport, LA - Roy Acuff - Melba Montgomery - Leon (Pap) Wilson - Shot Jackson - Brother Oswald - Fuller Brothers - Municipal Auditorium - APril 1961
Promo Ad - El Paso Coliseum - El Paso, TX - Roy Acuff - Kitty Wells - Johnnie and Jack - Ken Marvin - Benny Martin - Shot Jackson - April 1955

Promo Ad - Sho-Bud Guitar Company - October 1966
Promo Ad - Sho-Bud Guitar Company - April 1965
Promo Ad - Sho-Bud Guitar Company - September 1970


Promo Ad - Sho-Bud Guitar Company - March 1968

Jackson remained with the Tennessee Mountain Boys and Kitty Wells until February 1957 when he left to join Roy Acuff's Smoky Mountain Boys, remaining until 1962. It was during this period that he and Buddy Emmons got into the guitar making business. Among other things, Shot, described as a mechanical genius, developed pedals on a double neck steel and a seven-string Dobro with pedals that eventually became known as the Sho-Bro. Later Emmons retired from the firm and Shot became the solo owner.

From 1962 until 1964 Jackson promoted young girl vocalist Melba Montgomery who recorded first for Nugget and then for United Artists. It was Shot who matched her up to do duets with George Jones. He played steel on their great hit, "We Must Have Been Out of Our Minds." He played Dobro on most if not all of their Bluegrass Hootenanny album (UAS-6352).

Returning to Roy Acuff's band, Jackson became acquainted with former WWVA Jamboree star Donna Darlene. They were married on December 9, 1972 in Cheatam County, Tennessee.

Newspaper Headline - Roy Acuff Crash - July 11, 1965 Shot's career as a Smoky Mountain Boy came to a sudden end on July 10, 1965. He was traveling to a show with Roy and June Stearns when he barely survived a near fatal crash. Acuff had broken ribs, collar bone and pelvic fractures while Stearns suffered a broken ankle. Both curtailed touring after that. Jackson had a fractured skull, brain concussion, punctured lung and kidney, numerous broken ribs, and several broken bones in his jaws. His mouth had to be wired shut and his recovery took several months. He did at least one session with his mouth wired shut. That same year — uncertain as to before or after his accident — he moved his Sho-Bud business to Broadway with a work room in back and show room in the front.

Newspaper Headline - Roy Acuff Rushed to Hospital - July 11, 1965 The accident was front page news in Nashville including a picture of the badly damaged vehicles. Pete Kirby (Oswald) was interviewed that night. He said "...the most agonizing 15 minutes of his lifetime were spent yesterday trying to pull injured and bleeding members of his troupe from a wrecked, warped car." He said, "Shot Jackson, who was pinned in the front seat in Roy's wrecked car, got hold of me and tried to pull me down to him. Shot was screaming "Oswald!" - but I couldn't help him. The jagged metal had pushed in from the right side and had him pinned in. Roy, who was hurt badly, too, was under the steering wheel. Roy couldn't get out. He kept telling me to help Shot." Oswald said he was riding in a separate car, some distance behind Acuff's auto and did not see the accident that occurred about eight miles east of Sparta. June Stearn was the third passenger in Roy's auto but she only suffered minor injuries. Oswald was riding with Onie Wheeler. The Acuff group was traveling to Terrell, NC for a personal appearance. The crash occurred during a rain storm.

Shot Jackson - 1968
Shot Jackson - 1969

In 1966, he and Billy Grammer wrote a column called "Tipper's Corner" in Hoedown Magazine (owned by Thurston Moore). They shared with readers some tips and their experiences.

  • Shot wrote, "When you're through playing your guitar, be sure that you wipe the strings thoroughly clean. Whether you know it or not, your hands are sweating constantly and if this sweat is left on the strings after use, the strings will rust. It is nearly as important to get to the underneath of the strings after use because of the large buildup of dirt next to the fingerboard. This causes notes played to be untrue, the fingering much more difficult and a great deal of loss in the quality of the tone. By wiping the strings clean and dry after use, you'll preserve the life of the strings and sacrifice none of the quality." (Hoedown Vol 1 No. 1 May 1966)
  • A steel guitar tip from Shot: "It is advisable to use properly gauged strings for your particular tuning set-up (the key you tune in), to acquire the desired note per string. The reason for this is that a string that is too small is usually too loose and will not have the sharp, clear tone for the note you are trying to get. This will also cause the string to vibrate too much and give you a possible overtone. On the other hand, however, if the string is too large, the string will become too tight when trying to reach the desired quality of a particular note and will not allow for enough vibration and puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the keys and tail piece. A string that is too tight or too loose, in either extreme, will affect the harmonics of your steel guitar. Consideration should be given to the scale (distance from one end — nut — where the strings touch to the other end — tail bridge — where they touch again." (Hoedown Vol 1 No. 2 Jun 1966)
  • Shot's tip on stringed instruments: "Always insure that your instrument is tuned in the same key and if a change of strings is desired, it should not be done all at once, but rather one by one. In other words, each old string is to be substituted by a new string one at a time, tuning each new string, during the process, in accordance with the old ones. The purpose of this procedure is to maintain always the same tensile stress to which the top surface and bridge of the instruments are accustomed; otherwise, there would be a decrease in the instruments' sonority which would take some time to recover."(Hoedown Vol 1 No. 3 July 1966)

After recovery, Shot began to tour with Donna Darlene whom he soon married and included several trips back to WWVA. He also promoted his line of guitars heavily. Jackson also added instrument repair to his business. He continued to play shows now and then, did session work, and recorded instrumental albums, notably Bluegrass Dobro (Cumberland 29513).

In 1967, Shot purchased the "...substantially large inventory of the Hank Snow Music Center." Hank had previously closed the center a few months earlier due to his heavy recording and personal appearance commitments.

He sold Sho-Bud in 1980, but kept his repair business on Broadway until June 1983, then sold the building and retired.

On a personal note, while attending Fan-Fair in 1983, I visited his shop with some of the Bailes Brothers and the back room was a great meeting place. I recall meeting George Riddle there among others. He was a friend to all.

Shot Jackson's happy retirement was short-lived. He suffered a bad stroke on August 21, 1983 and could never talk afterward. His mind remained alert and he was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 1986. But after suffering another stroke in June 1990, it was down-hill from there on and his weight dropped to 93 pounds before he died the following January.

Donna Darlene - Shot Jackson - SHO BRO Guitar
Shot Jackson - Donna Darlene - Late 1980's

The Tennessee Mountain Boys - Johnnie Wright - Lester Wilburn - Jack Anglin - Shot Jackson - Benny Martin

Donna Darlene - Shot Jackson - Circa 1970's - 1980's

Credits & Sources

  • Hillbilly-Music.com would like to express its thanks to Ivan M. Tribe, author of Mountaineer Jamboree — Country Music in West Virginia and other books that can be found on Amazon.com and numerous articles in other publications for providing us with information about this artist.
  • Oswald Tells Agony Of Crash; Eugene Dietz; July 11, 1965; The Nashville Tennessean; Nashville, TN
  • Sidewise - Shot Jackson; July 17, 1954; Pickin' and Singin' News; Chas. G. Neese; Nashville, TN
  • Tipper's Corner; Shot Jackson and Billy Grammer; Hoedown; Vol 1 No. 1; May 1966
  • Tipper's Corner; Shot Jackson and Billy Grammer; Hoedown; Vol 1 No. 2; June 1966
  • Tipper's Corner; Shot Jackson and Billy Grammer; Hoedown; Vol 1 No. 3; July 1966
  • News; November 1967; Country Music Life; CA
  • Guitar Inventor Dies; January 26, 1991; The Leaf-Chronicle; Clarksville, TN
  • Shot Jackson Services Today; January 28, 1991; The Tennessean; Nashville, TN

Recordings (78rpm/45rpm)

 
Pacemaker
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  HB 1004 A I'm Watching The Stars
  HB 1004 B I Need You Like A Hole In My Head
  HB 1009 A Steelin' The Mood
  HB 1009 B Beautiful Hawaiian Shores
 
Specialty
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  706 A I'm Trading You in on a Later Model
  706 B If the Truth Was Know
  710 A Grandad He's Not Old
  710 B You Can't Get the Country out of the Boy