Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Remembering Jerry Clower
I hope that those of you who read my blog enjoy when I go back and take a look at former Opry members who have passed away and maybe are forgotten by many people today. We all remember the superstars who were Opry members, but many times we forget those who did not achieve that higher level of success. But all of them were Opry members and deserve to be remembered.
Today I want to look back at one of the great comedians in Opry history and that is Jerry Clower, who passed away 13 years ago today, on August 24, 1998. Jerry was born in Liberty, Mississippi on September 28, 1926, and here is the entry on Jerry from The Encyclopedia of Country Music:
"One of the most successful country comedians ever and a mainstay on TNN shows, Clower got into show business at age nine, when he joined a 4-H club to get out of a class. Four years later, at thirteen, he won a 4-H district competition, but it was a long time before he became a professional entertainer. While in the navy he was asked to tell some of his stories, and later, after becoming a fertilizer field representative with Mississippi Chemical Company, he used country stories as part of his sales technique. Clower became so well known for his routines that a friend suggested he record an album of them. This LP, 'Jerry Clower from Yazoo City Mississippi Talkin', was released on the Lemon label and advertised only by word of mouth. It sold more than 8,000 copies in a relatively short time and brought Clower to the attention of MCA. The company signed him to a contract in 1971. His album eventually made it on the Billboard charts for a long stay. This was followed by several other strong-selling LPs, including 'Clower Power' and 'From the Mouth of Mississippi', which led to Clower joining the Grand Ole Opry in 1973. In addition to performing live comic routines, Clower has hosted the nationally syndicated radio show 'Country Crossroads' and the TV show 'Nashville on the Road'. Clower is also the subject of a documentary film, 'Ain't God Good'. Clowers routines are based on people he knew in Amite County, Mississippi. He has written three books based on this material, the most recent being 'Stories from Home' (1992). In addition to his comedy, Clower is very serious about his religious beliefs, being a Baptist deacon and an active member of the Gideon Bible Society. He says Cristianityis the single greatest influence on his life. He is also a passionate advocate of education, family life, and racial equality and integration."
When Jerry joined the Opry, he was the first new comic that had been signed in a number of years. Jerry remembered it emotionally: "It's undescribable, because, you see, I had prayed as a little boy that at the end of a crop year we'd have enough money for us to go see the Grand Ole Opry. And we never made it. Now, here I was on it! Grand Ole Opry star Jerry Clower! Woooo!"
Jerry remained an Opry member until his death. He passed away in Jackson, Mississippi following heart surgery.
He joined the Grand Ole Opry on October 27, 1973 and was the last member to join the Opry while the show was still at the Ryman Auditorium. In memory of Jerry Clower, here is the Opry line up from Saturday October 27, 1973, the night he was inducted as the Opry's newest member.
6:30 Mrs Grissoms
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper(host)
Jim & Jesse
7:30 Goo Goo
8:00 Martha White
Fruit Jar Drinkers
Jim & Jesse(host)
10:15 Union 76
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper
Fruit Jar Drinkers
11:30 Elm Hill
Mary Lou Turner
There you have it. As you can see, this was not one of the Opry's strongest line ups.