Today is Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Alan Jacksons gone country with Cracker Barrel

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The country hit maker takes a few questions from the media as he discusses the Alan Jackson Collection, a complete line of merchandise that Cracker Barrel developed around the star. 

KEN BECK / The Wilson Post 

Hit maker launches exclusive line of lifestyle products, new album

By KEN BECK Special to The Wilson Post

MT. JULIET -- Almost exactly like his hit song “Gone Country,” singer Alan Jackson has gone Cracker Barrel Old Country Store country with Monday’s national release of his 40-plus collection of lifestyle items.

To kick off the mammoth merchandising effort, Jackson made a two-hour appearance at the chain’s Mt. Juliet restaurant to grin and spin for the media and sign his name on everything from CDs to cowboy hats as more than 350 fans turned out to get a few moments face to face with the country superstar who wears more than two dozen No. 1 singles on his belt.   

While Jackson songs boomed over outside speakers, fans from ages 3 to 70 waited respectfully in line in the parking lot for the singer’s 9 a.m. date.  

Waiting below the No. 1-50 sign, Billie Dunsavage of Lebanon was the first person in line to meet and greet country singer Alan Jackson at the Mt. Juliet Cracker Barrel Monday morning as the star unveiled his new collection of lifestyle items.

KEN BECK / The Wilson Post 

“We got here last night about 9 and ate and closed Cracker Barrel up,” said Lebanon’s Billie Dunsavage, the first person in line. “Then we went to the car in the parking lot and stayed there all night. I tried to sleep but couldn’t. I got ticket No. 1 at about 5 a.m. and went back home and got a little sleep, an hour and a half maybe.

“He’s one of my favorites. I just like pure country. I’ve been to his concerts but I never met him,” Dunsavage said of Jackson. She purchased his new album for him to sign.

The Jackson collection features menswear and womenswear, food items, collectibles, an Alan Jackson rocking chair and other exclusive items including the CD “Songs of Love and Heartache.” The album features two previously unreleased songs, “That’s What I’d Be Like Without You” and “Nothing Sure Looked Good on You,” as well as 10 other songs, including the hits “Here in the Real World,” “Livin’ on Love” and “Remember When.” 

The items are available only at Cracker Barrel, and Monday they were covering a good hunk of the store’s front porch, as more than 60 Cracker Barrel headquarter employees volunteered to run errands in conjunction with the event. In return they got dandy long-sleeved, white T-shirts as souvenirs for their labors.

The Alan Jackson Collection marks the first time Cracker Barrel has developed a complete line of merchandise around a star. The singer was involved in the creation of the collection, reviewing and approving the items and advising Cracker Barrel on what he thought might appeal to his fans.    

“I grew up in the South, so Cracker Barrel has been a part of my family since I was a young man,” Jackson, 51, said in a press release. “I was really flattered when they came to me with the idea of working together to create a collection for their country store, and I’ve been very impressed with the variety and quality of the items that we have put together. I think my fans and their families will appreciate everything in the collection.”

Prices of the items ranged from $1.99 for a mint shaped like Jackson's cowboy hat to $199.99 for the Alan Jackson rocker, the centerpiece of the collection. The solid hardwood rocking chair, made of Dutch spruce logs harvested in Maine and hand-assembled in Tennessee, has a Danish walnut finish and is nailed and glued at the joints for extra strength. The singer’s signature is engraved in the headrest of each of the 1,700 numbered, limited-edition rockers.

Also included in the collection are mugs, candles, decorative throws and jewelry. Shirts and hats have been crafted out of materials favored by Jackson such as suede, leather and cotton.

“We launched nationally today in over 41 states and over 590 stores,” said Peter Keiser, Cracker Barrel’s vice president of marketing. “We started on this about 12 months ago. We’ve got 40-plus items and we really designed the line around Alan Jackson, the man, the music and his lifestyle. The integrity and values Alan has as his lifestyle are also important to Cracker Barrel.”

A native of Georgia, Jackson has sold more than 50 million albums and had such hits as “Don’t Rock the Jukebox,” “Chattahoochee,” “Where Were You” “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” “A Woman’s Love,” “Country Boy“ and “Small Town Southern Man.”

Of the latter song, Jackson comments from his Web site, “I didn't sit down to write a song about my family and my daddy and granddaddy, but I did pull from that stuff. But wherever you go, there are rural people — around outskirts of major cities and everywhere — that are working for a living and raising families. They all have the same qualities and same goals as a small-town Southern man.”

Dale Perkins of Mt. Juliet saw the full page ad in the newspaper last week about Jackson’s appearance and brought his 4-year-old grandson, Justin Tase. “I already bought the wallet,” said Perkins, wearing blue jeans and a cowboy hat as he waited in line for Jackson to sign his new billfold.

Fan Deanne Swann of Lebanon said she was gonna eat breakfast too, but she bought Jackson’s cowboy hat as an early Christmas present for herself.

The singer spent almost 10 minutes on the red carpet for photo ops for journalists. Meanwhile, fans shouted such remarks as, “Alan! Wave!”, and “Alan, I love you.” He then went into the store where he sat and signed items for about two hours.

Sara Beth Turner, 15, on fall break from St. Andrew’s School in Monteagle, purchased a plush possum toy, not an item from Jackson’s collection, but he gladly signed it anyway. (Mighty incidentally, Jackson is a close pal of country star George Jones who wears the nickname Possum.)

“I told him how much I liked him and asked if it would be OK for him to sign my possum,” Turner said. He said, ‘Thanks for coming.’”

Looks like Jackson made another fan for life. But then that’s the front-porch country way.

Writer Ken Beck may be contacted at kbtag2@gmail.com.

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