When my Mom was pregnant with me, she prayed that she would have a baby boy that would grow up and sing for the Lord. I like to say "Here I am, living proof that God does answer Presbyterian's prayers."
Vern in 1959
I was born and raised in Afton, Iowa, a little country town in the southwest corner of the state... population of 900... maybe!
Mom discovered that I could sing at the age of six. Mom, acting as my "agent", would book me into every Ladies Meeting, Book Club Meeting, Bible Study Group, church, wedding or funeral in town. If there was a talent contest with a three hour drive, I was there.
Growing up when I did, TV was getting real popular and it seemed all the local TV stations in Des Moines and Omaha had a lot of talent contests. Without bragging, I won my share. I would also sing at church regularly. As I look back on all that, it was a great time to grow up. My Dad managed the Farmer's Co-op for 25 years and on week-ends and summers. I would work there and at a local gas station.
I have one sister, Hallie, who is three and a half years younger than me. She and her husband, Ron are retired and live in Harlington, Texas. She worked for J. C. Penny's for many years and Ron retired as a lieutenant in the Iowa Highway Patrol.
In 1956, our pastor Elman Davison, his wife, Irene and their daughters, Claudia and Linda moved from Afton to Anaheim, California. Soon after they arrived in California. Irene secured employment at Knott's Berry Farm, a western themed amusement park.
In 1957, our family decided to take a trip to California to visit the Davisons. Unbeknownst to me, Irene had arranged an audition for me with the leader of the western group, The Wagonmasters, who performed at Knott's Berry Farm. I was scared to death. I sang "old Man River" for the evening show and got a standing ovation. We had not rehearsed anything else, so I sang it again and received another standing ovation. WOW! At 17 years old, I had never experienced anything like that. After the show, we went back to the dressing room and Dick Goodman, the leader of The Wagonmasters, asked me to come to California when I got out of high school and join the group. I graduated from Afton High School on May 9, 1958 and was singing at Knott's Berry Farm on May 19th.
Vern with "Miss Rachel" Cadwalander-Beeman in 1960 at Knott's Berry Farm
Right now, I'd like to thank all of the Wagonmasters. When I arrived there, I was pretty much musically illiterate. I could sing, but I didn't realize music had to be structured and to get a good vocal sound, there had to be harmony parts. Always before, all I had was a lady playing the piano and following me. That doesn't work when you're singing with several different instruments and singers.
All these guys and Miss Rachel were so patient with me. They sat and taught me how to read time and how to pick up the harmony parts. They were my mentors. So thanks to you, Dick Goodman, Eldon Eklund, Don Richardson, Harvey Walker, Dave Bourne, Billy Beeman, and of course, sweet Rachel. Without you guys, I wouldn't have been able to receive all the blessings I've gotten through the years. Love ya!
When I was with the group, we made two long playing records of Western Classics. Good stuff. Keep watch out at local thrift stores for them. I have a lot of wonderful memories of Knott's Berry Farm.
Vern and Sandra married in 1964 at the Church by Reflection Lake in Knott's Berry Farm
My favorite and most important memory is meeting my wife, Sandra there in 1960. We were married in 1964.
I kept thinking I was thinking I was going to get my "big break", leave Knott's and become a major singing star. All my life people had told me this would happen to me, but evidently, the people who could make this happen hadn't been informed. Disappointed, I left Knott's in 1962.
My girlfriend (now my wife), Sandra had a friend, Peggy whose husband, Don Harding drove a catering truck, and did quite well. He got me a job and I drove a catering truck for the next nine years for Orange County Food Services in Orange County, California. Thanks to Tony Sigolos for your support and friendship.
In 1970, my friend, Harvey Walker (who was still working at Knott's) called me and told me that Knott's was building a new 2,000 seat, state of the art theater and would be needing a house band. He asked, "Would I be interested?" Oh, yeah! We put together a few songs, auditioned and got the job.
We opened the John Wayne Theater in 1971 with John Wayne attending (of course) and a little known actor and politician, Ronald Reagan ( who was the governor of California at the time), Roy Rogers (my boyhood hero), Glen Campbell and a host of others. What a great evening! The name of our group was "The Hear and Now". We were not a cowboy group, but a pop group. We played at Knott's for 4 years. I made two LP's with this group. During this time, I also played at the Sheraton Hotel in Anaheim for 4 years.
By this time, I was tiring of the music scene and decided to quit singing again. Still no "big break". Back to the catering truck. My family needed me to be home more anyway. as we had two boys, Randy and Landon. In 1980, another boy, Brandon came along.
We were always faithful church goers... on Easter and Christmas. One Good Friday, one of Sandra's good friends, Maria Rublecava invited her and the boys to this big church, Melodyland in Anaheim. She never been the same since. I would go to church with her when I couldn't talk my way out of it.
One Sunday evening, she convinced me that I needed to go hear this young dynamic preacher speak. I went and now I've never been the same. There were 4,000 people there that night and still that guy was preaching just to me all evening. How did he know? The preacher's name was Dwight Thompson and since I've been singing on TBN, I have done many services with him. That was in 1981.
Vern and Sandra with Pastor Phil Agular
For the nest 10 years, I would sing at my church and maybe a wedding or funeral. Just like when I was a little boy. People use to say, "You should send a tape to TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network). I didn't think they'd be interested, so I didn't make any effort.
In 1991, my pastor, Phil Aguilar asked me to make a cassette tape, as he wanted to give one to anyone who wanted one. I thought that would be a blessing and I did it. A few weeks later, Pator Phil and his wife, Sandra flew to Dallas, Texas, where TBN founders, Paul and Jan Crouch were living. Jan let them use her car, so they wouldn't have to rent one. When Pastor Phil and Sandra Aguilar returned to California, Sandra had "accidentally" forgotten and left one of those tapes in Jan's car. God had orchestrated my whole life. That is why I never got that "big break" as a young man. I probably couldn't have handled it and would have missed these many blessings he had for me in my later years. I was almost 52 when Paul and Jan invited me to start singing on TBN.
My family is well now. We have had our share of turmoil like most families do. That's part of my testimony when I go to churches. Randy, my first son works for an amusement park ride company. Landon is a fantastic guitar player and is in a Christian band and Brandon is married to a wonderful Christian young lady, Sonja and works in the home entertainment retail business.
God is good! Thank you for visiting!
Brandon, Landon, Sandra, Vern and Randy Jackson in 2012
Vern Jackson accepting the PIONEER AWARD for The Wagonmasters from the Western Music Association in 2011. This award was given to recognize an individual or group of individuals who have paved the trail for others to follow.
The Wagonmasters was originally a group of performers who played at Knott's Berry Farm's Wagon Camp under the supervision of Dick Goodman. Formed in 1957, the band featured Billy Beeman, Bobby Beeman, Eldon Eklund, Harvey Walker, Jim Eisenberg, Don Richardson, Dick Goodman, Vern Jackson, David Bourne and Rachel Cadwalader.
This photo includes Dee Woolern, Dick Goodman, Bobby Beeman, Billy Beeman, Vern Jackson and Harvey Walker (back row) and Eldon Eklund and Don Richardson (seated in front) ~ Circa 1960's
Harvey Walker, Billy Beeman, and Vern Jackson (top) Dick Goodman, Eldon Eklund (bottom) and Rachel Beeman (center)
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