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.