My dad was in a band in the late 60’s called The Townsmen. Part Chet Atkins and part Smothers Brothers, the Townsmen were all Nashville-class. Their matching suits certainly didn’t hurt the cause.
This cover band, which also included my dad’s younger brother Gary, began during high school and ran its course by the end of college. And for whatever reason, most – if not all – photos from that time never made their way into photo albums. Instead, I had to discover them in shoeboxes at my grandparents’ house. But since then, I’ve come to learn about and appreciate some of my dad’s experiences. Their biggest claim to fame, besides touring on a bill with Conway Twitty and carpooling a ride home from Hank Williams Jr., was being hired as the backing band for Ray Walker of the The Jordanaires. Ray Walker is the one to the far right of the guy snapping his fingers:
The Townsmen mostly played youth rallies, social events and one-offs with Mr. Walker. But in June 1968, they performed at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Percy Priest Dam, backing the Jordanaires (as seen below… Dad Jerkins on far right, brother Gary two turtlenecks to the left). President Lyndon B. Johnson was on hand for this one.
Pretend-rehearsing with Ray Walker (1966). Dad Jerkins seated with guitar.
1. Dad Jerkins, Trion, GA (1971) 2. Dad and future Mom Jerkins (1969) 3. Dad Jerkins and The Gretsch Country Gentleman (1969) 4. The Townsmen and Bobby Goldsboro, David Lipscomb College (1968).
So by the transitive property of my dad’s musical career, I’m Kevin-Bacon-style one degree away from playing music with Ray Walker and Pat Boone (see below), and only two degrees away from Elvis, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Waylon Jennings, Ringo Starr, Dolly Parton, Perry Como, Red Foley, George Jones, Willie Nelson, Ozzy Osbourne and plenty more. In return, all I can offer him is being one degree away from playing music with a guy who kind of looks like John Lennon.
Soundcheck at David Lipscomb College (1969)
Every show along the way included this 1965 Gretsch Country Gentleman, which I covet:
Lastly, my dad and uncle recorded several reels of live shows and basement recordings, produced and engineered by my dad. Here are a few favorites (click on the song title to read more about the recording):
EPILOGUE A few years ago I was at some sort of event at the Grand Ole Opry House. Ray Walker was there and I introduced myself as Stephen Jerkins. Upon the utterance of the name “Jerkins”, he grabbed my shoulders and semi-yelled “MY BOY!” and full-frontal hugged me. He held me close for at least 7 solid seconds. That’s a long time.