Monday, April 23, 2012

An Old Friend Passes

I got word this morning that another old friend has passed away.  Again... cancer.

Jerry was one of those people whom you liked at first meeting.  A beautiful smile and total acceptance of whomever you happen to be.  And, he was a great musician.  He played the congas and was known, naturally, as Conga Jerry.  Jerry played with some of the most respected bands and musicians of the 70's.  He has album credits with the Allman Brothers Band, The Marshall Tucker Band,  Sea Level, Eric Quincy Tate and many of the other acts who recorded at Capricorn Studios in Macon, Georgia.

I can't remember where I first met Jerry, but I got to know him like a brother when, at a very unsettled time for me following a divorce, he and his girlfriend Theresa asked me to house sit their cabin in Pine Mountain, Georgia while they took off for a four-month tour of the West.  Those four months in that little cabin sitting on a beautiful hilltop, surrounded by pecan trees, working fields and a view of Pine Mountain in the distance, were some of the healthiest and happiest months of my life.  I was unemployed with no income except for some savings and whatever I made from playing in a rock 'n roll club band.  I lived close to the earth and needed little.

When Jerry and Theresa returned they asked me to stay on, which I did for another six months or so, until Theresa finally insisted that I go as Jerry and I were spending way more time together than he with her.  So many times over the ensuing years when I've seen Jerry he's lamented having to kick me out instead of her.  I can only laugh when I think about it because, they were both right.  I overstayed my welcome but had she left instead of me, I would have without question become a full-time professional musician.  The sad thing is, not one month after I left, so did she.  Se la vie.

We used to have the greatest parties out on the farm.  Most of them just spur of the moment jams with everyone spreading the word to family and friends.  But sometimes, some of Jerry's friends from Macon would come over and serious music would break out.  One of my favorite memories was sharing a jam with Chuck Leavell, keyboard for Sea Level at the time, now with the Rolling Stones.  The parties were wonderful family affairs with children running around, picnics, and swimming in the pond.  Of course, there was plenty of home grown and the occasional meadow mushroom.

I regret that I don't have any good photographs of Jerry, but here are a few from the good ole days that will give you a feel for the moment.

We set up in this old shed to hide from the sun as much as the afternoon showers.  Jerry on the congas.  Me with the red guitar.
You can almost see Jerry's face in this one.
Mr. C playing his beloved 1966 Gibson 335 that I found in a pawn shop.
The band takes a break.  That's Jerry in the striped shirt.
Happy times.  Tom, Theresa and me.


God speed old buddy.  You will always live in my heart.

28 comments:

  1. I'm sorry you lost your friend. I'm glad you were able to remember such good times you shared with him.

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  2. I'm sorry Jerry has passed on. We are "that" age now I'm afraid.
    I remember these days, only different people, different place. Good days!
    Our old friends, even though they are no longer here today, always somehow stick around to remind us of the good times.

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  3. I'm sorry to hear about your friend, Jerry. Did you know Paul Tucker, who was a kick ass bass player who played with Sea Level as well. He died about three weeks ago. I knew him well.

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    1. I didn't know Paul but I certainly knew of him. Sea Level rocked. I was afraid I was doing to much name dropping so I didn't mention that Davis Causey and Randall Bramblett used to drop by the jams as well as EQT on a regular basis. Some great music being made out in the woods in those days. Sorry to hear of Paul's passing.

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  4. He rocked your world when it needed rocking and for that and the life that follows in your memory Conga Jerry will live on and now that others know of the connection he will live on in ours as well. That is as close to immortality any man can ask for in this life. peace on you C.

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  5. That's a nice tribute. It sucks when you lose someone like that.
    It seems to me that I never read about anyone ever regretting spending time playing music with their friends. It's one of those things that always warms your heart. Looking at your photos brings a familiar warmth to mine, they might as well be some of my friends from that time. We have a drum kit just like that one in the middle of our living room, but it doesn't get much play. There's so much time spent on other things, work-grandchild-ect., that the music has taken a back seat.
    I hope you frame some of those photos and put them up in your home.

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    1. Thanks Diane. Yes, music does that to you. Some time ago I swore that I would never again sell an instrument because I needed money because they are more valuable than money.

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  6. I'm so sorry for your loss. Seems like we're loosing 'em left and right, doesn't it? Love those pictures. My friends and I jammed, too, only we did mostly folk music. Impromptu hootenannies. Whatever the style of music, there's something unforgettable about hanging out with friends and letting it all hang out. Playing the guitar by myself doesn't quite measure up to those days of ... wine and roses? Not exactly. But unforgettable. It's wonderful that you still have pictures to reinforce your memories.

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    1. It's a musical conversation with friends that makes it so magically unforgettable.

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  7. Sorry for your loss, Mr.C. At least you have some great pictures. I don't suppose you still have that 335 anymore?
    My best friend and first music buddy died in '95. I have his Martin 000-28 and it will never leave my possession unless it would stay in his family.

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    1. It was selling that guitar that made me swear to never do it again. For one thing, if I still had all of the fine guitars I've owned, in the aggregate, they would be worth well over $50,000 today. But then, so what because I wouldn't sell them again.

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  8. Sorry for your loss. Enjoyed the narrative and the pictures; nice halcyon feel to it.

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    1. Halcyon days are free and easy when you have few responsibilities.

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  9. Firstly, I'm so sorry for your loss, Jerry was clearly precious in your life, even if these moments were (a few) years ago. This, with the photos, is a moving tribute.

    Secondly, where did you get those shorts and do you still have them?

    Thirdly, the shot on the porch with the group jamming is unbelievable, it really is a terrific photo.

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    1. Yeah, how 'bout them shorts. Swim shorts actually as just moments before I was in the pond with the kids. Unfortunately, like so many things in life, I let them get away from me. Actually, it was a wench one night at the beach when we were...

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  10. Those were the days, my friend, we thought they'd never end, we sang, danced and played . . . . .
    Oh, I remember them well.

    A friend like Jerry will live for as long as you do.

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    1. In his case, he will live as long as his recorded music does. Certainly longer than me... so far. :)

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  11. sorry about your friend..candle lit...prayers sent

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  12. Like the others all I can say is sorry for your loss. This post was a great tribute.

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  13. Goodbye, Jerry, dear man -- you will be missed by the music world, but especially by the folks in your adopted home of the Florida Keys...

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    1. The beautiful thing is, his music lives on. I pulled out my old EQT and Marshall Tucker albums just so I could hear those congas.

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  14. I cannot thank you enough for posting this tribute. You see, Jerry is my older brother. I so appreciate all the pictures and stories you posted, as they bring to life all the stories he told me. I miss him so much and am so blessed to have him as my brother -- he was such a "rock" to me and helped me through so very many hard times...as well as loving me unconditionally. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    Sincerely,

    Nadine J. Kasmar

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    1. "Unconditional love" describes Jerry perfectly.

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