Shot Jackson and the Sho-Bud Pedal Steel Guitar Company.Compiled by Duane Becker
From the late 1950's well into the 1980's, the Sho-Bud pedal steel guitar company was one of the major leaders in pedal steel development and manufacturing. Without a doubt, Shot Jackson was the man behind Sho-Bud.
Harold "Shot" Jackson was born in Wilmington, NC on September 4, 1920. Shortly after he was born, his family moved to Georgia, where his mother was from. The family did move to Pennsylvania (his father was from Pa.) for a time when Shot was young. Shot's dad called him "Buckshot" for a nickname, but his sister was very young and could not pronounce "Buckshot". All she could say was Shot. The new nickname stuck and from then on, he was known as Shot. When he was 11 years old, his dad fell off of a roof and was killed, and the family then moved back to Georgia.(As of 2000, Shots sister Hazel still lives in Ga.)
Shot started to play the dobro at a young age in Georgia. He had a friend/neighbor kid who played music with him as well. Shot continued to practice and soon took up the steel guitar as well. By the mid 1940's, Shot went to work playing the dobro for the Bailes Brothers. At the time, the Bailes Brothers were a popular group and had a hit song titled "Dust on the Bible", which Walter Bailes had written. Shot made his debut on the Louisiana Hayride with the Bailes Bros.
Shot arrived in Nashville around 1947 and went to work with the Johnny and Jack Show. He played dobro, and sang a 3rd part harmony with them. Shot was a very good harmony singer and in fact, later in life, he sang harmony with Donna Darlene. While with Johnny and Jack, Shot played on a recorded song called "Down South in New Orleans" in which his dobro had 7 strings and a pedal which Shot had rigged up on his dobro.
Through Johnny and Jack, Shot met and started playing the steel guitar (most likely a double 8 Fender) with Kitty Wells. He recorded "Honky Tonk Angles" with Kitty. After being with Kitty Wells for a time, Shot fulfilled a childhood dream by going to work with Roy Acuff and the Smokey Mountain Boys. Shot also worked with George Jones and Melba Montgomery.
Playing with these popular groups gave Shot Jackson the opportunity to perform on the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville many times, and this is where he first met Buddy Emmons. For a long time, Buddy had been experimenting with the steel. Shot had been doing the same, and after 1954 when the pedal steel started to be used quite extensively, Shot was adding pedals to existing steels. Shot and Buddy became friends, and then started building pedal steels in Shot's garage. Calling their new pedal steel, "Sho-Bud", it was an instant and total success. In a very short time, Shot and Buddy had most all of the Nashville based steel guitarists playing their Sho-Bud's. During this early time, many of these players would spend their free time at Shot's garage helping and just hanging around for the fellowship. This practice of hanging around Sho-Bud went on for years to come. Even after Shot moved the business out of his garage, if you were a pedal steel player in Nashville, you just spent all the time you could at Sho-Bud-it was almost your second home.
Around 1958 or 1959, the company moved to Nesbitt Lane in Madison, TN. Buddy Emmons recalling to the best of his recollection, "that the Madison stamp was not added to the guitars until the company moved to the Nesbitt Lane location. As the Sho-Bud company progressed, the Nesbitt Lane location became a repair shop in part for local musicians, and for general guitar work-both solid body electric and acoustic. Ira Louvin of the Louvin Brothers worked at the Sho-Bud repair shop. Ira was very good at woodworking and abalone as well as detail and custom inlay work. He did most of the jobs relating to repair and custom alternations of the standard guitars. Buddy Emmons says that while at Sho-Bud, Ira made a custom standard guitar in the shape of a pistol, and that he nicknamed it the "Sho-Gun". Ira also made a custom electric mandolin at the shop. Buddy says that Ira may have made these instruments after the company moved to lower Broadway.
By 1963, Buddy Emmons left Sho-Bud and his association with Shot to start his Emmons Guitar Company with Ron Lashley. In 1964, a retail store was started at 416 Broadway in downtown Nashville. The location of this retail store could not have been better for Shot and the Sho-Bud company. It sat right smack in the heart and life of Music City. Just in back of the store, several feet away from the stores back door was the artist entrance to the Opry. Roy Acuff's museum was next door and the Ernest Tubb Record Shop was just across the street. Several clubs, where pedal steel guitars were the featured lead instrument abounded as well. The Baldwin Piano Company got involved with Sho-Bud and started distributing the pedal steels around late 1963. By 1964, they were for sure distributing them. Buddy Emmons recalls, "I left Sho-Bud around 1962 or '63, when the shop was still at Nesbitt Lane. Baldwin didn't become involved with Sho-Bud until they moved downtown. In fact, they may have been partly responsible for the move."
Sho-Bud became a leader in the manufacturing and development of the pedal steel guitar. Shot had several employees building steels, as well as office help. It should be mentioned here that Shot's sons, Harry and David especially, were involved with Sho-Bud and ran the day to day operations of the company. In late 1967 or early 1968, the Jackson family was so successful with the company, that the bulk of the manufacturing was moved into a building in Madison on Dickerson Road. The store on lower Broadway grew and began to offer a full line of music products, instruments, and repair. Employees were continuing to build pedal steels at the retail store as well. In April of 1972, the factory was moved from Dickerson Rd to the 9th Ave location for about 2 years. Then in April of 1974 it was moved to a larger place on 2nd Ave in Nashville, just several blocks from the retail store. The factory stayed at this 2nd Ave location up until the time the Jacksons sold the company to Baldwin in June of 1979. Baldwin closed the factory a year later and the retail store remained open until 1983 at which time it was closed.
Shot Jackson while being involved with Sho-Bud, also was performing on a regular basics. In addition to the Opry each weekend, he would from time to time tour with Opry acts. On one such tour in July of 1965, Shot and Roy Acuff were involved in a near fatal auto accident while driving back to Nashville from a show. Roy was driving a Chrysler LeBaron and Shot was in the passenger seat in front. Shot suffered 23 broken ribs, a brain concussion, fractured skull, and a broken palate. He was in a coma for a week and was laid up for a long time. Roy Acuff, although was injured as well, his injuries were not as serious as Shot's were. Shot did recover and he then started to play music with Donna Darlene, whom he had met some time earlier. Shot married Donna and they continued to play music together until his death. They recorded together for Kapp Records for a time. Preformed in Germany (1965), the Caribbean (1968), Ireland(1980), as well as many other places as a duo or with Opry touring shows. When Shot retired in June of 1983, at the age of 62 years old, he and Donna had planned on to keep performing, but on a limited scale. Shortly after his retirement though, on August 21, 1983, Shot had a stroke. He and Donna had been planning to go to Japan just before the stroke, but the stroke changed all that. Shot and Donna continued to live at their home in Antioch Tennessee, just southeast of Nashville. Shot loved to garden and visit with his many friends he made through the years.