Standup comedian, recording artist and Grand Ole Opry member Jerry Clower struck the right balance between country comedy and heartfelt faith from his big label debut in 1971 until his 1998 death.
Howard Gerald Clower was born in Liberty, Miss. on Sept. 28, 1926. He served in the Navy right after high school (1944-'46). Following his military service, Clower played football and studied agriculture at Mississippi State University.
Upon graduating from college in 1951, Clower worked as a county agent and a seed and fertilizer salesman. Interactions with rural farmers earned Clower a reputation as a fast-talking jokester.
In 1970, Clower followed some friendly advice and recorded some of his stories. The reception to Clower's classic "A Coon Huntin' Story" and exposure from radio DJs made him a major label comedian by 1971. His debut LP with MCA, From Yazoo City Mississippi Talkin', introduced country music fans to Clower's fictitious Amite County: One inhabited by Marcel, Newgene and Uncle Versies Ledbetter's kinfolks and a revolving cast of hunting dogs.
Clower's stories of the rural South earned him the nickname "The Mouth of Mississippi" and made him a successful country comedian years before Jeff Foxworthy cracked his first redneck joke.
A Grand Ole Opry invite came in 1973, the year the album Clower Power brought us skits like "My Mama Made Biscuits." Clower's Opry affiliation continued a trend of comedians on the show, dating back to fellow Mississippi native Rod Brasfield and one of Nashville's all-time great country music ambassadors, Minnie Pearl.
Numerous albums followed, including Live in Picayune, The Ambassador of Goodwill, On the Road, Country Ham and More Good 'Uns. Standout skits from Clower's discography include "Marcel Ledbetter Moving Company," "A New Bull" and "The Burning Building."
It's impossible to separate Clower's squeaky clean humor and jovial personality from his Baptist faith, even if you've never heard his 1977 gospel-themed album Ain't God Good. He used the same title for a 1977 book and a documentary film.
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Clower died on Nov. 24, 1998 due to surgical complications from a heart bypass surgery. His final album of unreleased material, Peaches and Possums, came out that same year. His legacy remains that of a well-rounded entertainer whose act set the stage for every popular country comedian that followed
This story originally ran on April 14, 2020.
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