Sunday night’s horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas seemed primed for maxium impact, coming near the conclusion of the Route 91 Harvest country music festival. The three day gathering had brought big name acts like Eric Church, Sam Hunt and Big & Rich and tens of thousands of fans to the outdoor location on the Vegas Strip.
It all was to culminate in the final performance by country superstar Jason Aldean. The Georgia-born No. 1 artist was onstage when what’s reported to be a single shooter began firing from a location high up in the nearby Mandalay Bay Hotel. Aldean was rushed away to safety, but at least 50 people died and as many as 200 people were injured in the shooting spree.
Here’s what you need to know about Aldean, 40, the Macon megastar whom so many people had come to see:
He’s Georgia born and raised: Aldean was born in Macon and he grew up there with his mother after his parents separated when he was young. He graduated from Windsor Academy in Madon. In August 2017, Aldean returned to his hometown to perform a special benefit concert for Children’s Hospital, Navicent Health, the only dedicated pediatric facility in central Georgia.
His real name is Jason Williams. When he started out trying to make it in the country music world, Aldean said he found out, "There was an artist named Jason D. Williams performing all over Nashville at the time.” He decided to go with his middle name -- Aldine -- with a slight spelling change. It worked out just fine.
He was “discovered,” sort of, in Smyrna. After getting his first guitar from his father, Aldean started performing and writing songs with some other Georgia musicians. In 1998, he did a showcase gig at The Buckboard, a legendary and now closed country music venue in Cobb County. A representative of the Warner-Chappell song-publishing company who was there signed Aldean to a deal and he moved to Nashville that same year.
He’s taken up permanent residence at No. 1 on the charts. A two-time Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year, Aldean has had 17 songs hit No. 1 on the charts and has sold over 15 million albums. His seventh album, “They Don’t Know” was released a year ago and Aldean is currently touring. His next stop on his “They Don’t Know” tour is scheduled for this Friday at The Forum in Inglewood, California.
He’s the subject of a museum exhibition right now. To many people, the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville is a museum, and that’s where you’ll find the current exhibition entitled “Jason Aldean: Asphalt Cowboy.” Among the items on display there, according to the AJC’s music writer Melissa Ruggieri, are a wooden rocking horse from childhood; Aldean’s first guitar, given to him by his father; a Macon high school graduation photo; a poster for his tour appearance with Trisha Yearwood in the late-‘90s; and his contract cover letter for singing with Broken Bow Records in 2004. The exhibition runs through Nov. 5.
He’s a fan of Chipper Jones and vice versa. When the Braves great played his final game, Aldean sent out an admiring tweet to his fellow Georgia buddy.
And the two No. 1’s have taken in at least one game together, as seen in this tweeted out photo: