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A Proud Alabamian
Whose Musical Time Has Come
By PHIL SWEETLAND
NASHVILLE – Even a force of nature couldn’t stop Jack Witteveen from playing his music and keeping a promise to a fan that stormy day in April of 2009.
A devastating tornado struck Middle Tennessee shortly after noon. Several days earlier, Witteveen had told a fan who had fallen in love with his music on the Internet that he drive up from Alabama and visit her near Nashville that afternoon.
She was astounded and delighted when he showed up despite the weather, then introduced Jack to a gentleman who happened to be visiting her that day.
His name was Jerry Foster. At first, Jack wasn’t sure who that was.
“Play me one of your songs, I’ll play you one of mine,” Foster said.
Jack picked up a guitar and played a beautiful romantic ballad called “Your Best Friend.” Foster loved it, and suggested Witteveen rename it “All Over Again.”
Jerry then started singing one of his own songs, and Jack recognized it right away. Foster is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and has had hundreds of his songs recorded by country stars, including two of Charley Pride’s first five Top 10 Billboard country hits, “The Day The World Stood Still” and “The Easy Part’s Over,” both from 1968 and co-written with Bill Rice.
They traded songs and talked for more than two hours. Foster invited Witteveen to join him later that night in a show at the Nashville Palace. On the way, Jack called a friend to ask if he knew about Jerry Foster.
“This guy’s a legend!” the buddy reported. “He’s had like 500 cuts by major artists.”
Since that day, Foster and Witteveen have remained friends, and Jack couldn’t dream of a more ideal mentor. Jerry even invited Jack to perform one of Foster’s beloved Christmas songs, the Lynn Anderson favorite “Ding-A-Ling The Christmas Bell,” on very short notice for a holiday charity event.
As usual, Jack came through in the clutch, just as he’s done his entire life.
Jack Witteveen was born in the Gulf Coast town of Mobile, across the street from a church. He loved hearing the music on Sunday morning, and folks still tell Jack he’d be a sensational Gospel singer.
But he preferred the George Jones records his Daddy would spin. Country was not Jack’s only love, though. When Bon Jovi, the powerful rock quartet from New Jersey, hit it big in 1986 with the back-to-back No. 1 Pop singles “You Give Love A Bad Name” and “Livin’ On A Prayer,” both written by Bon Jovi, Desmond Child, and Richie Sambora, Witteveen found another musical influence.
“To me, there’s no better singer and songwriter than Jon Bon Jovi,” Jack says in a conversation from his small-town Alabama home in mid-May. “Back then, he was full of passion, and I love that.”
Witteveen was then hugely inspired by country’s famous “Class of ‘89” – Garth Brooks, Travis Tritt, Alan Jackson, and Clint Black – who all had their chart debuts that year, while at the same time Mary Chapin Carpenter scored her first Top 10 and Vince Gill signed with MCA.
“They changed the face of country,” Jack says.
McBride & The Ride, a band led by Music Row studio ace Terry McBride, hit it big in 1992 with “Sacred Groud” and “Going Out Of My Mind.” Witteveen remains a huge fan of that music, which has impacted his love for melody and storytelling lyrics.
Meanwhile, Witteveen was working as a carpenter and a building contractor, playing and writing songs on the side. By age 30, he had relocated from Mobile to the Oxford-Anniston area of Alabama, where Jack and his wife live in a beautiful log house on a private lake and he runs a thriving trailer-sales business.
And though it costs about $150 in gas for his truck to make the round-trip trek to Music City to play at writers nights at top venues like the Bluebird Café and the Commodore Lounge, that’s another price Jack willingly pays to achieve his musical dreams.
Like many of country’s greatest stars, who take charity very seriously, stardom is the furthest thing from Jack’s mind.
“I don’t want to be a star, I want to be a star because of what I can do for people,” he says. “I’ve always admired the little guy because I’ve always been the little guy, having to work hard to achieve anything and having to take on extra jobs.”
His original songs cover an amazing range of subjects, emotions, and styles. “Home Is Where The Heart Is,” for instance, is Jack’s loving tribute to the state that’s always been his roots and his home base, Alabama. It’s a radio-friendly country ballad.
The powerful tempo tune “Born An American” has a Southern Rock feel, Alabama-style harmonies, and a proud, uncompromising lyric. “I feel exactly what that song says,” Jack notes. “Born An American” expresses frustration at the politicians, judges, and others who he sees as constantly trying to remove God and country from schools, public places, and even the Pledge of Allegiance.
Jack’s backwoods, fun side, shines forth in “American Moonshine,” a rocking tune about one of the South’s proudest traditions and legends, “American Moonshine, American made” and the craftsmen who make and sell shine, always a step or two ahead of the law.
“Get Like That” is an irresistible tempo song that fans constantly request whenever Jack plays out. This surprises him since the song came so quickly, but the party attitude and character of the country boy “who dates two girls named Sally” delights the female fans and figures to soon do the same for country radio programmers.
He even wrote and recorded a radio commercial for “Smoke-N-Hot BBQ,” “Southern Style with an Irish Twist,” a business owned by two friends of Jack in Anniston. Countless customers kept coming up to the owners and raving about the commercial, which Jack wrote and recorded as a surprise gift to them.
Again, here’s a guy who wants to use his own celebrity and his own music to help others. That’s what he’s all about, and always will be.