Jackson sues Opry, claiming age discrimination


NASHVILLE -- Country music legend Stonewall Jackson, 74, is claiming that age discrimination by the Grand Ole Opry's general manager has kept him off the stage.

Jackson filed a $10 million lawsuit Thursday in federal court against the general manager, Pete Fisher, and the Opry's owner, Gaylord Entertainment Co.

Jackson has been a member of the show since 1956. He had a string of hits in the 1950s and 1960s, including the No. 1 songs "Waterloo" and "B.J. the D.J."

Jackson claims his appearances on the show declined after Fisher was hired in 1998. Jackson said he approached Fisher on several occasions and was told, "I don't want any gray hairs on that stage or in the audience, and before I'm done there won't be any," and, "You're too old and too country."

The company said that Jackson's allegations were a result of the scheduling dispute and that it hoped to resolve the issues amicably.

"The allegations of age discrimination are without merit, as evidenced by our lineups in each and every show," said Steve Buchanan, vice president of media and entertainment for Gaylord Entertainment.

Jackson said that he and Fisher reached an agreement in September 2005 to book more appearances, but that the singer was called to perform only once, on Oct. 1, 2005.

Jackson also has filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In November, Jimmy "Spider" Wilson, a longtime guitarist in the Opry band, left the show after 53 years because of what he described as "humiliating" treatment.

Wilson, 71, said that he was unhappy with several management decisions and policies, but that he resigned mainly because of his exclusion from "Grand Ole Opry Live" telecasts on the cable channel Great American Country.

The Opry has been performed since 1925 and has featured an array of country stars through the years, including Hank Williams, Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl, Marty Robbins, Loretta Lynn and Vince Gill.