You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.
By PHIL SWEETLAND
The New York Times
NASHVILLE – April 15, 2013 - Jerry K. Green was first inspired to play and write songs at the age of 10 in 1941 when he saw Ernest Tubb singing from the roof of a car in Jerry’s small Texas hometown.
Green first saw Eddy Arnold, who would become his biggest vocal influence, in 1950, when Green hitchhiked to Fort Worth to catch a performance by the Tennessee Plowboy.
Jerry saw Hank Williams play several shows in Texas in the early 1950s, and
performed on the Louisiana Hayride in the 1950s on the Grand Ole Opry in the 1960s himself.
Best of all, right now Jerry’s music is giving him the time of his life. For a guy whose life started in 1931, that’s truly saying something.
“How’s it feel?” Jerry says with a smile in a conversation at his home in suburban Hendersonville. “I’m feeling like I did when I first got here and got accepted.”
That was in 1966, when he first took the big step to move from Texas to Nashville. Within just a few months, he began performing a string of more than 40 shows on the Grand Ole Opry, sharing the stage with future Country Music Hall of Famers.
In 1966, he recorded “Tripod The Three-Legged Dog,” his uplifting country story song about a real-life pet who belonged to one of Jerry’s best buds.
“If you think you’ve got troubles you can’t overcome/Don’t sit like a bump on a log/You could do twice as much if you tried half as hard/as Tripod The Three-Legged Dog,” Jerry sings on the recording of the irresistible song in a new YouTube video, which incorporates 1960s vintage video of Green singing “Tripod” on a Nashville television show, accompanied by a howling and very happy Tripod himself.
Now, 47 years later, the song is acquiring a new life of its own. A few weeks ago the Nashville-based cartoonist Guy Gilchrist, who now draws the world-famous “Nancy” comic strip started by Ernie Bushmiller in the 1920s, surprised Jerry during a Writers Night at Nashville’s Commodore Grille with the gift of a poster-sized, custom-made Nancy drawing for Jerry which includes a depiction of both Nancy and Tripod, with the iconic little girl saying she hopes her boyfriend Sluggo won’t be jealous.
Fans at his shows come up to Jerry and tell him they loved the song as a child, when their parents played it for them. Collectors and country music history buffs from all over the world send Jerry mementos from his career, including a Bear Family recording of a Billy Walker cut on Columbia Records that Jerry wrote some 60 years ago.
A Louisiana Hayride fan in France also sent Jerry photographs of Green’s 1953 releases on Specialty Records, vintage advertising for the Hayride featuring Green with Hank Locklin, Slim Whitman, the Carlisles, and Goldie Hill taken shortly before Jerry was drafted into the Army.
The earliest recording on Jerry’s Web site stems from Sept. 13, 1952, when he performed on the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport. That was also one of several times he met Hank Williams. Green saw Hank perform several 1950s shows in Texas, including the Hadacol Caravan and Hank’s final public performance, at the Skyline Club in Austin on Dec. 19, 1952. Less than two weeks later, Hank Williams was dead.
In 1977, Green achieved his first Billboard chart success as an artist, when his recordings of both “I Know The Feeling” and “Genuine Texas Good Guy,” both produced in Nashville by Bill Walker, dented the Billboard country charts on the Concorde label.
After working the Holiday Inn circuit in Texas in 1979-80, Green left the business for what ended up being a 30-year hiatus.
He grins and says that by 2009, when he wrapped up his ‘day job’ career, just blocks from Music Row, rejoined the NSAI (Nashville Songwriters Association International), and began exploring the current Music Row, “most of my old friends and acquaintances on the Row had either retired or expired.”
By then, Jerry had begun playing writers nights, such as the popular one at the Holiday Inn Commodore Grille. Word spread quickly, and now Commodore show host Debi Champion always introduces him as “Jerry K. Green from the Louisiana Hayride.”
In 2011, Green released his first new single in years, “Wherever In Texas,” accompanied by his first-ever official YouTube video. Jerry also put out his first CD, a marvelous retrospective called “Jerry K Green Now and Then Volume I.”
In 2012, Green was honored as a ‘Texas Music Legend’ on The Texas Music Scene With Ray Benson weekly TV program, hosted by the longtime Asleep At The Wheel frontman.
Green’s classic mid-1960s recording of “Tripod” was not released on a major label because even then, at age 34, he was considered too old to begin a career on a major imprint.
“So it never reached the masses of disabled people and those who love disabled people and pets who I think need to hear its inspiring message,” Jerry explains. “My goal now is for some young artist or artists in any musical genre to discover `Tripod,’ record the song and make it their own so that it can at long last be heard by all of those who might be encouraged by it.”
If `Tripod’ becomes a significant moneymaker, Green adds, “I plan to donate at least 50% of my publishing income from the song to non-profit agencies that provide services and/or support to disabled people and pet rescue agencies.”
That statement is a marvelous testament to the magic that is Jerry K. Green, and the joy he feels at this personal and triumphant return to his musical roots after a painful separation of several decades.
It’s truly been a long, strange trip for Jerry K. Green, but a story from the very heart of country music history and a one-of-a-kind true story with a very happy and inspirational new beginning, rather than a sad old ending.