Track #3 of my 2017 self-titled CD, “Jackpot,” has a cool story behind it. In 2014, I was recording my album Drive with Joe Taylor, owner/producer of Salt Creek Recording Studio, a hidden gem tucked away in the brackish marsh of Bennetts Point, South Carolina. Joe and his wife Stacey are two of the most gracious people on the planet, and it was not long before they took me down to the local shrimp boat docks and seafood market, the gathering place for their tight-knit community, so I could meet their friends and neighbors. That night I met quite an eclectic group of wonderful folks who were kind, interesting and happy to meet a stranger. They welcomed me like a long lost friend. A couple days later when Joe mentioned the Operation Jackpot drug bust that occurred in the area during the mid-80’s and the possible (wink, wink) connection to some of the folks I met on the docks, I was fascinated and decided there had to be a song in there somewhere.
A book written by Jason Ryan, “Jackpot: High Times, High Seas, and the Sting That Launched the War on Drugs,” explained it all to me. Based in South Carolina, Operation Jackpot was a federal task force that captured and convicted more than 100 marijuana smugglers from 1983 – 86. College-educated and non-violent, two of the kingpins from South Carolina became known as the “gentlemen smugglers” and the Lowcountry coast was their favorite place for unloading drug-filled boats arriving from Jamaica, Columbia and Lebanon. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had met one of the judges involved with the trial of the kingpins at one of my gigs and I realized it was quite possible the judge would not be the last person I would meet with a connection to Operation Jackpot. That came to fruition when I met another gentlemen at a different gig who had actually served prison time for his role in the smuggling operation! Small world!
I started the song and mentioned it to Mark Bryan (founding member/guitarist, Hootie & The Blowfish) during a songwriting session. We worked on it some that day, but I was a little distracted by a painful eye injury. (Note to self, corner of a cardboard box and your cornea do not play well together.) A few days later I finished up the song and started trying it out at gigs. People loved it so I decided to put it on this album. Musically, “Jackpot” is one of my favorites… producer/multi-instrumentalist Josh Kaler played some killer guitar on the track and I think we really nailed the vibe and mood to the song’s inspiration.
Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself and learn more about the album right here!