Jerry Clower

One of the most popular country comedians of all time, Jerry Clower's down-home, folksy southern humor might never have become a mainstream phenomenon, but it's resulted in a lengthy career and an enormous catalog of recordings. A country boy born in the rural Mississippi town of Liberty in 1926, Clower was an excellent football player and an active member of the 4-H club as a youth. He served in the Navy after graduating from high school, and went on to study agriculture at Southwest Mississippi Junior College and Mississippi State University (the latter on a football scholarship). After completing his studies, he took a job as a fertilizer salesman. In 1970, Clower had a speaking engagement before a farm group in Lubbock, TX, and a local DJ who was present encouraged him to take up comedy as a profession. The DJ recorded Clower's next speech and sent it to MCA, who offered Clower a recording contract. Clower's first comedy album, Jerry Clower From Yazoo City (Mississippi Talkin'), was released in 1971. It wasn't distributed nationally at first, but it became a word-of-mouth hit, and eventually climbed into the Top 20 of the country album chart. A string of hit albums followed, most notably Clower Power (1973, a Top Ten hit), Country Ham (1974), Live in Picayune (1975, also a Top Ten seller), and The Ambassador of Goodwill (1976). His single most famous routine was "Coon Huntin' Story," but he was also known for his tales about the colorful characters in the fictional Ledbetter family. His last album to chart in the Top 50 was 1981's More Good 'Uns, but he remained a popular presence on the country comedy circuit, and he continued to record new material at a steady pace. He appeared often on country-themed television shows, especially on the then-Nashville Network, and hosted his own syndicated show for a time, not to mention his own national radio show. He also wrote three books -- Ain't God Good, Let the Hammer Down, and Life Everlaughter -- and the first lent its title to a documentary film of the same name about his life. MCA has kept a boatload of Clower albums on the market, and he continued to record and perform up until his passing in 1998. ~ Steve Huey

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