|Jerry Grammer, The Untold Story
Born in Dora, Alabama. Reared in Sumiton, Alabama. Music started filling the soul at a young age. Growing up with a musical family, grandfather taught music, dad played guitar and mom played organ and piano. Jerry personally did things backward from most country kids. He loved jazz, blues and big band, while friends and acquaintances enjoyed country. Only later, to play country music as a necessity for $$$$.
Attending the Church of God in Sumiton had to affect everyone's life. The best of singing, the best of music is all he ever knew! Then once a young preacher came to the church, looking good, preaching good and best of all, playing trumpet like no one had ever heard. Jerry's life was changed forever, whether it was good or bad! His name: Joe Milligan.
Convincing his dad that he could and would be a good trumpet player, he bought a trumpet from a pawnshop. Jerry realized that it wasn't a very good one. His dad allowed him to go to music stores and test horns. Jerry found one that played easy and had good action, his dad said, I should have known you can't pick someone's instrument. It was actually a Cornet, a sweeter and easier horn for Jerry to handle.
By the time he was in high school, the desire to perform was stronger. Eventually forming a group called, "The Dixie Travelers", playing mostly dixieland and ballads. The group consisted of Ralph Raines (sax), Don Early (piano and vocals), Larry Stewart (drums), Dempsey Easter (drums), Gene Hayes (guitar). This group played several high school functions, talent contests, and recorded a tape that was made into a record, but never released. Ralph Emery played it on his radio show several times. Jerry piddled with the drums throughout this period, but never took it seriously.
After forming a group that traveled and performed (on a flat bed truck) for George Wallace's first campaign as Gov. He lost and I never got paid!! After a short stint in the US Navy, playing with The US Navy Band, and once performing for The Queen of England, Jerry returned home because of family hardship. It wasn't long before he started flinging himself into the "scene" again. Enrolled in Walker College, playing trumpet with the "Collegiates". And still having a passion for the drums, always tinkering with Ralph Serrano's drums, that were always setup in the Student Center. Wayne Gross would play Bo Diddley and other blues artists while Jerry pecked away at the drums. Wayne later became a founding member of "Larry And The Loafers", having a small hit called "Panama City Blues". This group had some dynamite musicians, Chuck Giambrone, Dale Serrano and of course Wayne.
Later forming a group and only entering talent contests. I think we always won, meaning nothing, actually!! But being still immature we loved it. After getting confident about playing drums as well as trumpet, a group consisting of Bobby Goodman (Happy Goodman Family), Ronnie James, Sonny Sargent, Frank McAtee and Jerry, left for Bossier City, La. to play at an all night club named "Club Dallas". Believe it or not a great blues artist was fired to hire us. His name, Roscoe "Chicken" Gordon. I never realized till later years how strange that was!
Returning to Alabama with the group split up I chanced upon a group that would later become famous, Dan Penn And The Nomads". Hollis Roberts, Clement Thomas, Billy Sherrill. I was hired as the drummer and worked with them through several great events.I eventually got Frank McAtee the job as saxman when Billy Sherrill left for big time in Nashville. Charlie Rich was just becoming popular and hired us to back him. I loved Charlie, but his problems got in the way. Dan later became very important as a songwriter and producer as well as a cult figure in blues. Writing for Arthur Alexander, Wilson Pickett, Odis Redding and many more. He was awarded Grammy's for several hits. The list continues today! This group spawned people like Dan Penn, Big Ben Atkins, Billy Sherrill, Carmol Taylor, Ray Pennington, and"The Boxtops".
Jerry left "The Nomads" and was hired by J.C. Raynor. "Wilgus", as he was then known (had a great high tenor voice). We had exceptional musicians, such as Hoyt Johnson (vocals and guitar, Grand Old Opry Member, RCA and Stax Recorning artist), Mabron Mckinney (later to become original bassist for Duane and Gregg Allman), and the great Scotty Moore on guitar. Several other great musicians worked this gig, just too many to mention. They were eventually called "The Cavemen". This was the Allstate Club and people actually did come from all over the state to hear this group. There were several recordings made on Decca Records, Allstate Records and Fame. There was also a record made that, I'm embarrassed of, called "Yo Yo and Tapping That Thang." Sorry Mom!
During this period of time Jerry was supplementing income by playing on The Country Boy Eddie Show. This meant long hours, playing clubs all night, and being at the studio for live performances at 5:00 am. After Mabron left, I decided to pursue other interests. Soon finding myself back into music with an old friend, Jerry Woodard. We did a year together, including several recordings. We were using great talent at the time, including Bill Burnette (remember Johnny and Dorsey? Same family), Barry Beckett, Larry Butler, Bobby Mizzel, Larry Stryzlechi. Larry became well known as a bassist, drummer and for traveling with Hank Williams Jr. We all supplemented our income by staying up all night and playing the Country Boy Eddy Show. Something happened and we all split, in all directions. I worked with Jimmy Elledge (Funny How Time Slips Away) for a while. I don't have problems with anyone being gay, just don't push it on me! We never got the Ed Sullivan Show, even though the producers thought we were good. I will always believe that was from homophobia. Who knows, who cares??
A later time, Jerry, in Mobile, Alabama, landed a gig on the first day there. Being drummer for Ray Sawyer (Dr. Hook). This didn't last long. He had plans with some people from Up North, Dennis Loccorrie. They got famous (Sylvias Mother / Cover Of The Rolling Stone). Continuing around Mobile and meeting up with Jerry Lee Lewis' Band. Ray "Smitty" Smith and Jerry talked and jammed a lot. They later ran into each other at the Domino Lounge in Atlanta. Jerry was playing house band and Jerry Lee was booked for a week. Smitty was sick one night and played Jerry's shows plus front. Quote from Jerry G.: "I don't remember ever getting paid extra for that." (Jerry - I actually feel more comfortable telling this from my view) I was booked in a country-western Club in Mobile. It was with two brothers. Sorry I can't remember your names. Another singer came to sit in, and he later became famous (Gary Stewart).
Woodard called me at the club in Mobile. He offered a deal I could not refuse. After hopping a plane the following day, I was picked up at the Atlanta Airport by Woodard. It is hard to remember the rest of the night. Let's say I was very tired! Woodard and I never rehearsed. For some reason he would hit a note and I knew the next phrase. He could spout a joke and I would know the punch line. We got so good at this, that everyone was trying to book us as a duo! This was eventually our demise. We still needed a large band to pull off the Blues, R&B, etc. After finally exhausting our chances in Atlanta, we finally made a decision to move on. Now mind you, we were already popular for backing Red Foxx, Johnny Tillotson, The Four Freshmen, The Clovers and numerous big timers, plus our own music.
I was hired to do 3 nights with Joe South. Things were getting tense between Woodard and his wife. He promised to settle down somewhere. Well, that somewhere wasn't where I wanted to be, because I had offers from Johnny Tillotson and Red Foxx, to move to California and work with them. My weaker moments led me with Woodard. We drove to St. Simons Island, Ga. Working there for a long time, having repeated visitors we had known, Brother Dave Gardner, Charlie Rich, Jack Nicholaus (the Golfer). Once Charlie came, we locked the doors and played jazz all night. Brother Dave came to see me while being booked at Jekyll Island. He plays great drums even though he is a comedian. Great night! I will always miss him. Charlie you should be in the hall of fame.
Upon times slowing down, and other conflicts, I started "The Jerry Grammer Trio". Believe it or not we got real popular. Playing many clubs and concerts. Once appearing across the street from Jim Stafford. He came over on his breaks and listened to us and we did vice versa! I never mentioned that I had been a lead singer of Pop and Blues!! Woodard died and is buried on St. Simons (I never go a day without thinking of him). Things continued for a long time. Then my wife died from cancer and my children were more important. Thank God for them! And thanks God, for Rita (saved my life and blesses my Soul). After semi-retirement from music, I was called to do a week with Gatemouth Brown! Nothing Since.
RIP: Ralph Raines, Brother Dave Gardner, Bill Burnette, Dorsey Burnette, Johnny Burnette, Charlie Rich, Jerry Woodard, Ray Hammond, Hoyt Johnson, Ben Burnette, Duanne Allman, Sonny Sargent, Gene Hayes, Joe Milligan, Acie Grammer, Wayne Stewart, Scotty, Sam Middleton, Sam Kinard, Gene (Butterbean) Flippo, Piggie Pignatelli, "Old George", Red Foxx, Whitey Puckett, Gene Garrison, Jimmy Elledge, Carl Stewart, Carvee Hatcher, Happy Hal Burns, Don Hood, Leroy Wires, Robby Roberts, Don Putman, Bob Cain, "Rudy", Red Barry, "Bill The Man", Jesse Smith, "Pappy" Wallace, Homer & Jethro, Glen Layne, "Teddy", Little Joe Cochron, "Dobro" Dave, Ralph Serrano, Dale Serrano, Frank Russo, Ira Louvin, Dale Hawkins, Chris Caine, Harold Hollis, Doyle Wilburn...
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