The Life and Times of Jerry Grammer

Jerry Grammer has been a professional musician almost all of his life. He has worked with a Who’s Who’s of famous musicians and writers. It was this work that got him listed in the Rock A Billy Hall of Fame. What follows is Jerry’s story told in his words. Rick

“Born and 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. Personally doing things backward from most country kids. Loving Jazz, Blues and Big Band, while friends and acquaintances enjoyed country. Only later, to play country and rockabilly 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 know one had ever heard. His life was changed forever, whether it was good or bad! Convincing his Dad that He could and would, be a good trumpet player, His Dad bought a trumpet from a pawnshop. I realized that it wasn’t a very good one, Jerry said, but He allowed me to go to Music Stores and test horns. I found one that played easy and had good action, Dad said, “I should have known you can’t pick someone’s instrument,”. It was actually a Cornet, A sweeter and easier horn for me to handle.

After entering high school, the desire to perform was stronger. We formed 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), and Me. 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. I piddled with the Drums throughout this period, but never took it seriously.

I had a group performing at night, doing Gigs at Musgrove Country Club and other Dances. This kept me half asleep most of the time.( I got reprimanded by the Principal (Mr. Gant) You are burning the candle at both ends he said. It took me years to understand his wisdom. I think I will always love that Man!

Later I organized a group traveling with George Wallace (performing on a flat bed truck). He lost that first election and I never got paid. I have been a Republican ever since.

After a short stint in the US Navy, playing with the US Navy band, and once performing for the Queen of England. I returned home because of family hardship. It wasn’t long before I started flinging myself into the “scene” again.

Dixie Travelers

Attending Walker College, I played Trumpet with the “Collegiates”.
Still having a passion for the Drums, tinkering with Ralph Serrano’s Drums, that were always setup in the student center. Wayne Gross would play Bo Diddly and other Blues Artists while I 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 I formed a group and only entered talent contests. I think we always won, meaning nothing, actually!! But being still immature we loved it.
After getting confident I could play drums as well as trumpet, a group consisting of Bobby Goodman (Happy Goodman Family}, Ronnie James, Sonny Sargent, Frank McAtee and I 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 very popular, “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”.

I left “The Nomads” and was hired by J.C. Raynor. “Wilgus”, as I had always known him, had a great high tenor voice. We had exceptional musicians, such as Hoyt Johnson (vocals and guitar, Grand old Opry Member), 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. We 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 and Allstate Records.

I did contract studio work on recordings by several different artists. The work was with Fame Studio (Muscle Shoals) and several independent studio’s in Nashville, Atlanta and Birmingham. Some of these sessions were released on labels including: Decca, RCA, Chant and Allstate.
During this period of time I supplemented my 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. 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. Larry Butler became a famous producer, also Barry Beckett (producer and original Muscle Shoals rhythm section}

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 had a shot at playing on the Ed Sullivan show, but it never happened for some reason. A later time finds me in Mobile, Alabama. I Landed a Gig on the first day there. I was 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! (Sylvia’s Mother/Cover of The Rolling Stone.

Continuing around Mobile I met up with Jerry Lee Lewis’ Band. Ray “SMITTY” Smith and I talked and jammed a lot. We later ran into each other at the Domino Lounge, in Atlanta, Ga. I was playing house band and Jerry Lee was booked for a week. Smitty was sick one night and I played Jerry’s shows. I don’t remember ever getting paid extra for that.
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 big time. (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. 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 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 Nicholas (the Golfer)
Once Charlie came, we locked the doors and played jazz all night. Bro. 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”. Originally it consisted of Rick Drummond (Guitar), Ed Burnett (Bass) and Me. We did soft rock, blues and Society. I later used Dave Oyler (Guitar), Jim Morgan (Bass). (This group played everything, I sang blues and Pop, while Dave Oyler took the country. We became popular enough to book anytime and almost anywhere! Playing many clubs and concerts. Once appearing across the street from Jim Stafford. Jim came over on his breaks and listened to us and we did vice versa!

I went back to St Simons Island on several occasions and worked gigs with Woodard, however his inner Demons were driving us apart musically. He died and is buried on St. Simons (I never go a day without thinking of him)!
I eventually drifted through the New England states, booked with a Jazz Combo. Finding myself back in the Jacksonville, Fl area I worked with a group called Gene Crews and “The Cruisers”. We did gigs in Jacksonville, Jacksonville Beach, Cocoa Beach and Tampa.

I started another group of my own “Gabriel”.
Things continued for a long time. Then my wife died from cancer and my children were more important. Thank God for them!
After Semi-retirement from music, I was booked a week with Gatemouth Brown! I slowly eased out of the business completely. Just sitting home trying to teach myself Guitar after all these years.

Thanks for listening,

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—-Lee Hood—-Leroy Wires—-Robby Roberts—-Don Putman—Frank Russo—-Bob Cain—-“Rudy”—-Red Barry—-”Bill The Man”—-Jesse Smith—-”Pappy” Wallace—Any Nebor—Ralph Serrano— Dale Serrano— Charlie Walters—A.J. Grammer, many more who touched my life with their music and presence.

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