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Thinking About Jakson, Three Years Later

Posted: Mar 16, 2008

Exactly three years ago today, on March 16, 2005, my world was rocked like it hadn’t been rocked in quite some time. The powerhouse drummer and songwriter behind Blackfoot and The Southern Rock Allstars, Jakson “Thunderfoot” Spires, died in Florida following a brain aneurysm.

Jakson, born April 12, 1951 in Raleigh, NC, was a Southern rock legend. He was also my friend.

I have said it before and I will always maintain that I feel extremely lucky to have called Jak my friend during the short five years I knew him.

Jakson was truly one of a kind. A Cherokee warrior with heart bigger than most anyone I have ever known. He truly cared about all of his friends and kept up with every one of them. As for me, he called at least once a week just to chat. He’d ask about the family, all by name. He even knew the names of the dogs.

Jak was a giver of gifts. Just days after the tragedy of September 11, my band opened for the Southern Rock Allstars at a biker benefit for The American Cancer Society. When we first arrived, Jak made a bee line to me and hugged me and kissed my cheek. He was not a man afraid to express his love. He gave me several gifts that day, including some “Buffalo” tea bags he had gotten out west and a spear head he said was over a thousand years old that had been blessed by a Navajo shaman. That artifact means the world to me today. He told me to wear it around my neck when I perform, for protection and blessings. And I did just that, from that night onward.

Jak was also the funniest man on earth. I was so fortunate to hang out with him so many times when he was in Southern Rock Allstars. He was always pulling stunts and jokes. He and Jay Johnson, Charles Hart and Jimmy Farrar were always pulling tricks on Dave Hlubek, who seemed to take it all in stride. Jak had a habit of pulling up the leg on his shorts to expose his privates to many of us, just for shock value or a laugh. He was also pretty quick to show you a Cherokee moon, if you catch my drift.

Every gig with the SRA was a barrel of fun. Most of the time it was my buddy Scott Greene and I, and we just had one laugh after another, all wrapped around some of the best Southern Rock ever played. I was blessed to open countless shows for them, usually along with The Rhythm Pigs of Virginia, and we would always jam somewhere during the show. I would get up and play guitar on “Can’t You See,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Call Me The Breeze,” “Train Train” or “Rock and Roll All Night.”

Standing on a small stage in Virginia one evening, I ended up directly in front of the drum kit during “Train Train.” It felt like a jet was taking off. I was praying Jak wouldn’t break a stick. I began to picture a shard from a heavy Ludwig drum stick flying into my jugular.

Jak was really excited about the Blackfoot reunion. We spoke about it many times, and I was completely stoked when I got word that my band would be opening for Blackfoot in Florida. The sad part was, by the time the gig got here, Jak had died. The show turned into a memorial.

Today I spent an hour in the park, under beautiful sunny skies. I sat on the park bench halfway through my walk, and just thought about Jakson. All of the memories were good. Not a single bad one in the bunch. I sat for fifteen minutes just smiling. As I got up to finish my walk, a kid walked by with a jam box, listening to classic rock radio. They were playing “Highway Song.” A tear formed in my eye, and I felt Jak’s spirit all around me. It was the most peaceful I have felt in months.

Keep it Real. Keep it Southern.

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sarasmile says...

Thunderfoot lives. Miss you Jak.

coconut1955 says...

Hard to believe it has been 3 years since Jakson and Danny Joe died. Thank you for the memorial, Michael, and the links lead me to several articles I never saw before. BLACKFOOT FOREVER.

jimmyjams says...

Nice. I met Jackson a couple of times and he was the best man. I join you in missing him. Thanks for helping keep his memory alive.

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