Thursday, 11 October 2012 | Art Schuna
I’ve always been a big fan of Jerry McCain. He was one of the most under-rated talents in the blues. The songs he wrote were unique. Jerry McCain was born in Gadsden, AL in 1930 and lived his entire life there. McCain’s first record was made for Lillian McMurry’s Trumpet label in 1953. Jerry was not too fond of this firs.t release, saying his voice was too high.
He would go on to record 9 tunes for Trumpet and had one more release which included “Stay Out of Automobiles” which was released shortly before the label folded. Neither of the Trumpet releases were commercially successful due to limited distribution. His Trumpet records on a release originally issued on the Acoustic Archive label and reissued by Alligator titled Strange Kind of Feeling. McCain would go on to record for Ernie Young’s Excello label and had half a dozen singles released between 1955 and 1957 including “Courtin’ In a Cadillac” and “Run Uncle John Run” which were early classics. Many of these were upbeat tunes aimed at rock and roll fans. The song “Tryin’ To Please” mocks Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender”. These songs demonstrate McCain’s unique approach to lyrics that would be a trademark throughout his career. The Excello sides may be found on That’s What They Want: The Best of Jerry McCain released on AVI/Excello which is, sadly, out of print.
In 1960, Jerry McCain would acquire a manager Gary Sizemore, who would be with him for 26 years. Jerry released a series of records on Sizemore’s Gas label. His best tune from this period was released on the Rex label, “She’s Tough”. This tune was a regional hit for him would later be covered by the Fabulous Thunderbirds in 1980. You’ll find these recordings on a CD called Good Stuff, released on the Varese Sarabande label. This CD also features a great tune called “Welfare Cadillac Blues”. Unfortunately, this record seems to be out of print.
Jerry would go on to record for the Okeh label who tried to turn him into a pop music star. At least one of his records included backing by the Anita Kerr Singers, a female chorus known for their syrupy arrangements. I’ve never heard these records but maybe that’s a good thing. He was billed $33,000 for these questionable productions. The records were not a commercial success. Between 1965-68 Jerry recorded for Stan Lewis’ Jewel label and released 5 singles.
In later years, Jerry McCain put out a series of LPs on the Ichiban label which, unfortunately, is no longer in business. In 2000 he recorded This Stuff Just Kills Me for the Jericho label. He would record Boogie Is My Name and Unplugged for the Music Maker label. Both of these are great records if you can find them.
I had the privilege of interviewing Jerry McCain in 2006. He was an amazing interview and had much to say about his life and the music industry. I wish I had an entire afternoon to talk with him. In a few instances he broke out into song during the interview. I hope you enjoy listening to this interview as much as I enjoyed doing it.