One of the most highly acclaimed
country comedians and a member of the Grand
Ole Opry from 1973 until his death in 1998, recording artist,
writer, and “racoonteur” Jerry Clower could be heard spinning tales
for the public about his Mississippi roots for more than a quarter
of a century.
He was born September 28, 1926,
in Liberty, Mississippi. The day after he finished high school,
he joined the Navy and
served on the aircraft carrier Bennington in the Pacific
during World War II. When he returned to Mississippi after the war,
he attended college on football scholarships at Southwest
Mississippi Junior College and Mississippi
State University, where he received a degree in agriculture.
He served as an assistant county
agent in Oxford, Mississippi, for a couple of years. Then, maintaining
his close ties with the soil, he took a job in Yazoo
City as a fertilizer salesman for the Mississippi
Chemical Corporation, a manufacturer of chemical plant foods,
where he stayed for 18 years and eventually rose to the position
of director of field services. In the process of making sales, he
began telling prospective customers humorous stories about his childhood
to improve sales. Eventually, a friend taped one of his talks and
sent it to MCA Records
in Nashville. The result was his first comedy album in 1970, Jerry
Clower from Yazoo City, Mississippi Talkin. Within a month,
the album had achieved gold status, selling more than 500,000 copies.
He first appeared on the Grand
Ole Opry in 1973 and continued to tour extensively and record. A
staple of his comedy is the Ledbetter clan, a fictional family whose
humorous antics are more than funny; they chronicle life in the
rural South of the 20th century. Undergirding his comedy is Clower’s
strong religious beliefs. A Southern Baptist, Clower has served
as a lay minister and as a deacon in his hometown church, and he
has hosted a Christian radio show and syndicated television show.
He is married to the former Homerline Wells, his childhood sweetheart,
and they have four children.
In addition to his live performances,
Clower has also published four best-selling books. Ain’t God
Good came out in 1975 and was the basis and title for a documentary
film which won an award from the New York International Film
Festival in the category of Ethics and Religion. It was followed
by Let the Hammer Down! in 1979 and Life Everlaughter
in 1987. In 1992, the University Press of Mississippi published
his most recent book, Stories from Home, a collection of
his best tales and a serious look at the man behind the persona.
In the foreword to Stories from
Home, fellow Mississippi writer Willie
Morris wrote that Clower’s comic art demonstrates the
richness of the spoken language of the South “in all its inwardness
and nuance and sweep the extravagant country talk, as lyrical
as much of southern literature, and in the lineal ancestry of southern
writing.” He concludes that Jerry Clower’s humor is “rooted
in a region, but is not regional.” Laughter is the force that
connects people from all regions in his work of art.
Clower died in Jackson, Mississippi,
on August 24, 1998, five days after undergoing heart bypass surgery.
He was 71 years old.
(Article updated August 25,
Related Links & Info
Liberty, a town in Amite County, is Clower’s hometown.
A collection of Jerry Clower memorabilia is on display at the Triangle
Cultural Center in Yazoo City,
Mississippi, Clower’s home for many years.
Jerry Clower’s Greatest Hits is one of several
albums available for purchase at CD Universe.
Find out more about the film documentary Ain’t God Good at
- Ain’t God Good! Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1975;
New York: Pocket Books, 1977.
- Let the Hammer Down!. Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1978;
New York: Pocket Books, 1979.
- Life Everlaughter: The Heart and Humor of Jerry Clower.
Nashville, Tenn.: Rutledge Hill Press, 1987.
- Stories from Home. Foreword by Willie
Morris. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1992.
- From Yazoo City, Mississippi Talkin’. MCA, 1971;
- Mouth of Mississippi. UNI/MCA, 1972
- Clower Power. MCA, 1973
- Country Ham. MCA, 1974
- Greatest Hits. UNI/MCA, 1974.
- Live in Picayune. UNI/MCA, 1975
- The Ambassador of Goodwill. MCA, 1976.
- On The Road. UNI/MCA, 1977
- Live from the Stage of the Grand Ole Opry. UNI/MCA,
- Ledbetter Olympics! MCA, 1980
- An Officer and a Ledbetter. UNI/MCA, 1980
- More Good ’Uns. MCA, 1981; 1995.
- Dogs I Have Known. UNI/MCA, 1982
- Starke Raving! MCA, 1983
- Live at Cleburne Texas. UNI/MCA, 1983
- The One and Only. MCA, 1983.
- Runaway Truck, MCA, 1986.
- Top Gum, 1987.
- Classic Clower , UNI/MCA, 1988.
- Let There Be Light. UNI/MCA, 1989.
- Mouth of the Mighty Mississip’. UNI/MCA, 1990.
- Racoonteur. UNI/MCA, 1991
- Sidewinder, MCA, 1992.
- Spend an Hour with Clower, MCA, 1993.
- Stories Told Funny, MCA, 1993.
- Jerry Joins the Navy. UNI/MCA, 1994.
- Fish’n, Frogs, Hawgs, ’n Dawgs. UNI/Radioactive,
- Live from Dollywood. UNI/MCA, 1997. (Available May
- Live, Vol. 1. MCA, 1990.
- Live, Vol. 2. MCA, 1990.
- On the Stage with Jerry Clower. MCA, 1993.
- Chaffin, Tom. “Southern Comic.” Southern Exposure 11
(Sept./Oct. 1983): 60-65.
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