Thursday, February 14, 2013

Jerry Clower: 1926-1998...

I came across a recent upload of a commercial that Jerry Clower taped at some point in the latter half of his career.

Here's the commercial he did for Electric City. I have no idea of the year it was taped but you'll notice that it was meant to air during Christmas season. I assume it was taped in 1989 and the only reason I say that is because that was the year he issued a comedy album called Let There Be Light!

I only saw Jerry Clower in person once and that was an outdoor appearance at a local county fair in 1995. The comedy album out that year from Clower was Fishin', Frogs, Hogs, and Dogs...or as it's spelled on the CD cover, Fish'n, Frogs, Hawgs, and Dawgs. On the cover it shown an illustrated picture of Clower and the animals depicted in the CD's title. One of the other subjects depicted on the CD's cover is a fishing lure known as the Helicopter Lure. He and Roland Martin taped an infomercial for it in 1995 and it became a sensation that year in the sport of fishing. The stories were recorded during a concert he did in Renfro Valley, Kentucky.

The same year Clower had a supporting role in the Ray Stevens direct-to-video movie, Get Serious!. Clower played the part of Ray's manager, The Colonel. A picture of Ray as Gitarzan and Clower in his Colonel attire is seen in the last panel of the film strip on the back of the home video. This wasn't the first time Jerry and Ray teamed up. Earlier, in 1986, Ray released a comedy single titled "Southern Air". The writers are Brent Holmes and Stuart Dill. In the recording Ray plays the part of a nervous passenger while Jerry plays the pilot and Minnie Pearl is on hand as the flight's stewardess. The recording can be found on Ray's 1986 comedy album, Surely You Joust. During his career, Jerry Clower was part of three long-running programs. In 1973 he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. The same year he became the co-host of a radio program called Country Crossroads whose other host was songwriter and Texas disc jockey, Bill Mack. The association with these two programs would last 25 years...ending in 1998, the year that Clower passed away. August 2013 will mark 15 years since his death at the age of 71 in 1998. He was born in September 1926 and was nearly a month shy of reaching 72. (September 28, 1926 - August 24, 1998). A third long running program was the weekly television show Nashville on the Road that aired in syndication. Jerry co-hosted this show with Jim Ed Brown from 1975 through 1981. Another element of his visibility were the various local television commercials that he taped. His image (on TV) and voice (on radio) became associated with numerous products. One of those commercials, of course, is embedded near the top of this blog entry. Obviously the biggest reason for his visibility were his comedy new release per year on MCA Records from 1971 through 1995 and then he emerged with a new one in 1997 and that was followed by what became his final project, Peaches and Possums, released in the late fall of 1998, a few months after his death. There wasn't a new album issued in 1996, his Silver Anniversary with MCA Records, and perhaps that was MCA's way of thanking him for 25 years of laughter and recordings by giving him "the year off" but that's just a guess. As mentioned, a new album hit the market in 1997 titled Live At Dollywood featuring an illustration of Clower wearing a Dolly Parton wig.

I have all of his albums and a few of the compilation/best of releases, too, like Classic Clower Power. You can search the internet for a lot more information on his life and career...he had a rather lengthy association in the Agriculture and Chemical businesses prior to his entrance into the world of country comedy in 1971 (he was in his mid 40's at that point in time). A lot of his experiences as a boy growing up in the depression-era South were spoke of in his comedy stories as was his strong religious values, his experiences in the military during World War Two, his days playing football in college and his later career paths in Agriculture and as a salesman for the Mississippi Chemical Corporation. Almost all of his stories incorporated the antics of a family referred to as The Ledbetter's (two parents and nine children altogether!). The most popular members of the family were Uncle Versie, Marcel, Newgene, and Clovis even though at one time or another each of the siblings individually took center stage in at least comedy story. There was one story titled "Burning Building" from 1978 which featured ALL of the Ledbetter's as member's of a volunteer fire department and the chaos that ensues as a result. In later years he spoke of distant relatives, newcomers, and in-laws to the Ledbetter family in addition to the core line-up of 11.

In addition to those kinds of family-driven stories he also offered contemporary experiences touring the country, meeting celebrities, life in Yazoo City, Mississippi and his return to the area he grew up, Liberty, Mississippi, in the mid '90s.

The raccoon became something of a logo due to his breakthrough release in 1971 titled "A Coon Huntin' Story". On stage he'd most often appear in either a red, orange, brown, or blue dinner jacket with a face of a raccoon embroidered on his lapel. He also wore yellow suits but didn't wear them too often...he has a comical reason as to why he stopped wearing the yellow suit. Eventually he settled on just wearing a bright red suit since that was the color that he said most of his fans liked seeing him in the best. In addition to the raccoon and the Ledbetter's, hunting dogs were another consistent subject in a lot of his stories. In 1982 he issued an album titled Dogs I Have Known. The most popular hunting dog in his stories was a dog named Hi-Ball. He also spoke of a couple of other dogs named Brummie and Little Red. In a story that appears on the 1982 album he does an entertaining impression of a mean, aggressive and downright insane dog named "Ol' Blue" and the misadventures that happen when he's taken out into the woods on a hunting trip. His passion for the military was on full display in the 1985 album, An Officer and a Ledbetter. The album opened up in an unusual way in that we hear Clower speaking to a pilot. The routine is titled "Fox 12...Over...". Afterward the main part of the album begins.

There are two stretches of highway in Mississippi named in his honor. There is Jerry Clower Blvd. in Yazoo City, Mississippi and the Jerry Clower Highway near his birthplace of Liberty, Mississippi. It was in the mid '90s that he opened up an intimate museum, in his backyard, housing the various certificates, awards and music industry plaques he had received during his lifetime. He often appeared on Family Feud whenever the program did charity driven episodes featuring country music personalities. On some of his early to mid '80s albums he tells stories about his appearances on the game show.

Jerry Clower: 1926-1998.

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