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Old 06-28-2011, 12:50 PM
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Did anyone ever know/see Jerry Clower? (And: Was Marcel Ledbetter real?)

I got a hold of the late Jerry Clower, an incredible personality and raconteur.

I wondered if anyone here ever saw him in person or knew him and has anything to add about him?

I also wonder how real Marcel Ledbetter is, or whether he is an entirely fictional creation Clower made up (no doubt these country people are craftier than they seem).

The there were 12 ledbetter siblings makes it harder to believe:

Arnell, Burnell, Raynell, W.L., Lynell, Odell, Udell, Marcell, Claude, Newgene, and Clovis.

Anyways tell me more about this amazing personality!
Old 06-28-2011, 01:29 PM
wedgehed wedgehed is offline
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I crossed paths with him in a motel lobby not too long before he died. I greeted him by saying "Knock him out, John!". He did not seem terribly amused. I just chalked it up to it maybe being the millionth time someone had said that to him. Later I realized that his declining health may have been a factor. I'd be surprised if many people on the SD have ever heard of him.
Old 06-28-2011, 01:44 PM
Sampiro Sampiro is offline
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My grandfather swore that the "you wanna buy a possum?" stunt was done by him and his 9 brothers. No idea if it's true- there are lots of people who claim to be the "real Ledbetters"- but I wouldn't be at all surprised if most of the stories about them involve twice-told tales Jerry heard and tailored to fit.

Clower was a salesman until he was middle aged and kind of fell backwards into a recording career when one of his clients had him do a novelty demo album. Almost immediately he was making his living as a comedian and never looked back. Don't know much about him as a person but I remember when he was huge in the '70s and had a series of bestselling albums and books; I think he'd be more mainstream successful (ala Blue Collar Comedy Tour) today.

Like most comedians I think he was a very serious person. I saw him interviewed a couple of times on shows about the 20th century Mississippi and he was stern as a judge. Far from being an apologist for the state or telling the million-times-per-day-told story of how Granny always told him to treat everyone good regardless of color, he flat out said "I was a die hard white trash racist up til I was grown", and actually told some moving stories of what changed him. He also talked about the classism of the south and how poor kids were made to feel like dirt by the teachers in the small town school he went to in the Depression era. His family was poor-white farmers (a step above sharecroppers, but that's an important step) who usually 'traded' for school lunch [i.e. brought in vegetables from their garden in exchange for the school lunch] but a couple of times he had to go on relief and talked about how angry it made him at the way the teacher he saw in church each Sunday would go on in front of the class about her tax money paying for their lunches and the like.

Clower was a Fundamentalist (or at least very conservative) Christian, but amazingly progressive in his racial views. It even cost him some fans when he spoke out against neo-segregationists (the ones post integration) and other racist politicians in his home state during the late 60s and 70s.

It was my favorite of his interviews and I can't even remember what it was on other than something about Mississippi. I think most southerners, especially those of us who grew up in the rural south surrounded by older relatives, can relate to his comments about having older relatives to whom 'nigger' was a synonym for 'black', and yet at the same time they were good people in most ways.
Anyway, the whole reason for mentioning is that I've heard him accused of painting a romanticized picture of rural southern life. He was a comedian- telling the story of the guy who got lynched behind the filling station would have been a bit of a buzz kill- but he really didn't have blinders on about the surroundings of his childhood.

He and his wife (Homerline) also had a travel show back in the early 80s or thereabouts. I remember him being on a beach in a bathing suit in one episode and being surprised at what solid arm muscles he had for an old fat guy. I think he could have messed up some folks in a bar fight in his day.

Last edited by Sampiro; 06-28-2011 at 01:48 PM.
Old 06-28-2011, 01:52 PM
KneadToKnow KneadToKnow is offline
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I've been a Jerry Clower fan most of my life, thanks to my dad owning, AFAIK, every album he ever made.

I haven't believed the Ledbetters were real since I was about 10. A quick search of doesn't turn any up in Liberty, MS.
Old 06-28-2011, 02:54 PM
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Originally Posted by KneadToKnow View Post
I've been a Jerry Clower fan most of my life, thanks to my dad owning, AFAIK, every album he ever made.

I haven't believed the Ledbetters were real since I was about 10. A quick search of doesn't turn any up in Liberty, MS.
I thought it might be at least based on a real other family, since it's a lot easier to imagine there is a Marcel Ledbetter but Clower exaggerated and fabricated much of what happened.

I also remember one mention that Clower makes about people writing him and asking if Marcel Ledbetter was real, and Clower makes a joking dismissal of it, but I forgot what exactly he said, something like they were friends and 'you can trust me, i wouldn't make it up would I?"
Old 06-28-2011, 04:29 PM
Ogre Ogre is offline
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Never met him, but I grew up listening to his stories. Wonderful stuff.
Old 06-28-2011, 05:13 PM
Sampiro Sampiro is offline
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6 posts before someone finally says


One of the most famous dead southern comics writing about another: Lewis Grizzard on Jerry Clower. (The two could scarcely have been more different: Clower was a clean living long-time married devout Christian from rural Mississippi, Grizzard a skirt chasing hard livin' multimarried good ol'boy who spent most of his life and career in Atlanta, but he respected Clower immensely.)

Last edited by Sampiro; 06-28-2011 at 05:15 PM.
Old 06-28-2011, 05:19 PM
Sampiro Sampiro is offline
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Apologies for above- that wasn't the column I was remembering, though he does call Clower "the funniest man alive" in it. Grizzard sat next to Clower on a plane once and wrote basically a love letter to the man and a comparison-contrast of their styles, but I can't find that column online.
Old 06-28-2011, 05:20 PM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
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"Shoot on up in here: one of us has GOT to get some relief!"

"Oh Jerreh, you must take a look at my gen-u-wine wormwood panelin'." "And it was the sayme stuff we used to burn around the washtub back home!"

Yep, used to love some Jerry Clower.
Old 06-28-2011, 05:31 PM
dropzone dropzone is offline
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Still do.
Old 06-28-2011, 06:05 PM
aceplace57 aceplace57 is offline
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Jerry Clower and Tom T. Hall are my favorite Southern story tellers.

Jerry had a wonderful way of gently poking fun at Southern life. I would have loved to meet him.

Clower was 45 when MCA came calling and he began his professional career as a comedian. He often said, "I backed into show business." Many of his comedic stories revolved around the non-fictional[citation needed] Ledbetter family, especially his "best friend" Marcel Ledbetter who currently lives in the area of Baton Rouge, Louisiana[citation needed]. These stories are true but embellished for story telling[citation needed]. Marcel and Jerry were best friends throughout Jerry's life[citation needed]. Those stories are considered to be informal chronicles of early 20th century rural Southern life and according to Clower, were usually based on actual events.

Last edited by aceplace57; 06-28-2011 at 06:09 PM.
Old 06-28-2011, 10:01 PM
installLSC installLSC is online now
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Here's a great profile of Clower in 1973, from of all things Sports Illustrated.
Old 06-28-2011, 10:06 PM
Ann Onimous Ann Onimous is offline
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Jerry Clower was the main speaker at our college alumni banquet. I was working in the cafeteria, so I got to go. He was awesome. We got to meet him afterwards. I didn't ask for an autograph, but I told him I would be praying for him. He gave me the biggest bear hug I'd ever had in my life. I thought my ribs would crack.

I've listened to him ever since I was a kid. His story about going to a church that picked up the serpent is the funniest story I've ever heard.
Old 06-29-2011, 07:09 PM
Hockey Monkey Hockey Monkey is offline
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I've been a Jerry Clower fan for as long as I can remember. Dad would play his tapes in the car while we were on long car trips. Jerry Clower and Ray Stevens were the staples of the road trip.
Old 06-30-2011, 05:38 PM
TheChileanBlob TheChileanBlob is offline
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I saw Jerry in concert with Ricky Skaggs in the 80s.


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