Jack Kirby is a true unsung hero in Donelson and beyond. I had the pleasure of getting to Jack through Hip Donelson and our natural love of music and supporting artists bonded a great friendship. When I began to learn about Jack’s incredible history of being on the production staff of Hee Haw, filling in for musicians at the Grand Ole Opry and everything he did as part of a number of different teams making those shows big successes, my admiration and respect for Jack went even deeper.
Jack was born and raised in Defeated, TN and graduated from Carthage High School. Inspired by an uncle who was with the State Highway Patrol, Jack joined in 1958. Jack was a dedicated State Trooper, once being recognized and awarded for his investigative efforts that led to an arrest and conviction of man charged with second-degree murder. He also joined the Army and served 18-months in Vietnam in the medical corps. On July 4, 1963, Governor Frank Clement signed an executive order creating the water safety program and Jack was among the first officers to be part of this new group. With a combination educational and enforcement mission, they also served as a rescue unit and promoted safe boating and water safety. There were only 3 boats statewide and they were on call 24-7. The patrol boat was equipped with marine, THP, and Coast Guard radios. Recently, Jack learned that the Tennessee State Museum is adding a feature that will acknowledge the Water Safety Division that Jack was assigned to. Below is a picture of Jack on one of those first boats in 1963.
Jack was always involved in music from an early age, winning a senior music medal from Carthage High School for his guitar playing. He moved to Donelson around 1970. Jack met Sam Luvello in the mid-1970’s and they quickly became good friends. A few years later Sam added Jack to his production team for Hee Haw and they worked together for many years on the show until its run was over in 1992. Jack assisted with a great many details on ensuring Hee Haw was a success each and every night. Jack gave me a copy of “Life in the Kornfield” by Sam Lovullo and Marc Elliot, a book about Sam’s 25-years at Hee Haw. One passage (Page 180) recalls when they were trying to book Patty Loveless for the show, Sam sent Jack over to talk to Patty after her Opry show and work with her and her manager to book her on Hee Haw. I have memories as a small kid in Buffalo, NY watching Hee Haw with my grandfather and it’s just incredible to me to sit and chat with someone like Jack who was so instrumental in helping the show be a success.
Pictured Above: Merle Travis, Reggie Alley, Jack Kirby and Joe Carroll backstage at the Opry rehearsing for a performance – October 1982.
Jack continues to help artists and was involved in the production of numerous other shows, including the American Federation of Musicians Local 257’s Big 100 concert celebrating a century of musicians in Nashville.
Jack is a humble and caring neighbor. He’s never sought attention or credit, but gives of his time, energies and talents that is such a big part of the true heart of Donelson as a community.
(Profile picture is Grandpa Jones, Sam Lovullo and Jack Kirby)