Ralph Soul Jackson

Born and raised in rough-and-tumble Phenix City, Alabama, where he still resides today, Ralph "Soul" Jackson" recalls that the area was once so rife with gangsterism and vice that, "they made a controversial documentary-style film about it, The Phenix City Story. They used to drag the river weekly for bodies. It was tough, man."

In it but not of it, Jackson grew up in a musical household with his talented cousin Jo Jo Benson, who would later go on to country soul fame with partner Peggy Scott, waxing hits like "Soulshake" and "Pickin' Wild Mountain Berries" for Shelby Singleton's SSS International label. After a childhood spent tinkering with the piano while other boys played ball, Jackson penned an original called "Don't Tear Yourself Down" during his senior year in high school and sent a demo of it off to Rick Hall in Muscle Shoals.

The next thing he knew, Ralph was recording at Hall's Fame Studio with the same band that backed the likes of Clarence Carter, Wilson Pickett and Arthur Conley. "Don't Tear Yourself Down" was paired with a gritty 'Bama style take on Hank Williams' "Jambalaya" that ranks right up there with Jimmy Hughes' "Neighbor, Neighbor" as one of the most groove-worthy performances to issue forth from a studio that specialized in nothing else.

Working with Spooner Oldham, Jackson produced a killer version of Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love" which he then leased to Atlantic. Next, he cut a single for Neal Hemphill's Birmingham-based Black Kat label, "Set Me Free" b/w "Take Me Back."

Alongside his recording activities, Jackson led an R&B dance band that toured military bases, and when not playing music, made his living as a self-described "shade tree mechanic." The minister of music at his church, Jackson is still penning timeless R&B and soul gems, such as the smoldering ballad "Just Because I Love You," with all the grit and feeling of his early material.

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