The first time I heard Jackpot I was a drunk college student buying $8 pitchers of SLO Brew and waiting for The Mother Hips to come on stage. I had no interest in opening bands at the time because until then I’d never heard one that I liked. That night, Jackpot’s set was an aberration.
Soon thereafter I bought the album “Weightless”. Over the next few months I listened to that CD at least once a day, every day. From “La La Land” to “Queen Bewildered”, the record was perfect. The music varied from laid back to rocking, emotional to carefree, slightly sloppy to slightly exact. It was amazing. And above all else it was sincere.
Rusty Miller, the lead singer and songwriter of Jackpot is nothing if not sincere. The emotions in his songs are as real and raw as it gets. He’s lived the heartache contained in “Spaceout.” He’s experienced the drunken reverie of “Whiskey.” He’s felt the disappointments contained in “Get My Life Together.”
Unfortunately, sincerity and great songs are not always enough. From 1999 to 2007, Jackpot did achieve moderate success. They signed some record deals, appeared on TV, and were even featured on the Vans Warped Tour.
During that time, Jackpot released five albums: Bone-ville, Weightless, Shiny Things, F+, and Moonbreath. None of them brought the acclaim that the band had hoped for or deserved. Because of this, they were subsequently dropped from their label and left to fend for themselves.
And so Jackpot still toils away in obscurity. Their hopes of stardom have likely faded. Their next release is uncertain. Until recently they weren’t even playing music together.
But like the old Allen Toussaint song says, “What is Success?” Is mainstream acceptance the be all and end all? Does a sold out amphitheatre confirm your importance? Does a career playing barrooms confirm your irrelevance?
Today we see insignificant bands like Mumford & Sons and Kings of Leon selling out amphitheaters, while Jackpot indeed is still in those barrooms. Life is not fair.
The music industry is not fair.
But sometimes the final judgement of a band takes time (see: Big Star, Television, Gram Parsons, etc.). Over the last 15 years, Jackpot has managed to do what so few other bands have. Simply put, they made great music. Whether it is appreciated by a wider audience or not is of little consequence. Those who know it will continue to love it and feel lucky to have heard it.
Popular bands come and go, but good music stands the test of time.
Long live Rusty Miller! Long live Jackpot!
Violinist, Guitarist, Jackpot fan