Hundreds of Jacksonville-area musicians and singers have made their mark in the world of music. While many may think mostly southern rock when they think of Jacksonville, there have been some country artists and country songs that have a link to here.
Tim McGraw was conceived in Jacksonville, born and raised in Louisiana, then came to the area to live with his mom after a semester of college. He stayed in the area for about 18 months according to his recollection before going to Nashville and finding superstardom. He sang around town at different venue, including the old Pappa's Nightclub.
If you lived on the southside of town in some apartments in the early 1980s and you had Debbie Williams and her toddler son, Jason as neighbors, you shared some time with Jason Aldean. Jason and his mom lived here for a short time after she got divorced from Jason's father. Jason's memories are vague but he remembered going to the beach a lot while he lived here. Jason later split time between south Florida and Macon, Georgia growing up.
The Clay High grad is one of the most-revered voices in country music. Gary LeVox of Rascal Flatts calls him "the greatest damn singer on the planet." Marty rose to fame as the lead singer of the group Shenandoah, who had a slew of hits in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He later sang with his brother Tim (who also went to Clay High) as the Raybon Brothers and had a huge hit with "Butterfly Kisses."
While he never lived in the area, Josh has a song on his debut album titled "Jacksonville". He told us the story of how that song came to get it's title. One of the co-writers of the song was wearing some crazy shoes or sandals when they were hanging out. Josh asked where he got the shoes and his co-writer said "ah I was just killing time in Jacksonville." Josh said that sounded like a song and they ended up writing it. Listen to it below
The Burch Sisters (Cathy, Charlene and Cindy) were from Jacksonville and were later living in Georgia when they had their country hit "Everytime You Go Outside I Hope It Rains," which was their only song to reach the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart, peaking at No. 23 in 1988. It was included their only major label album, New Fire.
Jacksonville-born Johnny Tillotson was locally famous before making it big around the world. He had his own local tv show as a performing teenager and after graduating from University of Florida hit the national pop, r&b and country charts, mostly in the 1960s. He had two top 15 country hits but also had big pop hits with country classics penned by Hank Williams.
Talk about someone who has spanned the generations: Slim Whitman was born in south Florida but moved with his wife to Middleburg in the 1950s. Meanwhile, he was setting chart records in England for most weeks at #1! He hit the country charts 39 times between the years 1949 through 1981! He had a resurgence in the late 70s thanks to his TV commercial selling his greatest hits, later to a new generation as the guy who made the Martians heads explode in the movie "Mars Attacks."
One of the biggest hits in the history of country (and pop) music, this Elvis Presley song was on top of the country charts for an amazing 17 weeks. The song was written here in Jacksonville by Tommie Durden and Mae Axton. Mae was a high school teacher who also worked part-time on the radio. She interviewed a young Elvis Presley, who was just getting noticed at the time. She told him she was going to write him a hit. When Elvis signed his first big contract with RCA records this was his first single. The brass at RCA didn't like it at first, they thought it was too depressing, but Elvis insisted, they relented and history was made. It was number one on the pop, country and the r&b charts.