JERRY MCGILL

One of the more mysterious musical legends in Memphis history, Jerry McGill returns in thirty years to town  for a special performance at the Hi-Tone Café in Memphis. A former garage-band great, a onetime Sun  recording, ''Lovestruck''/''I Wanna Make Sweet Love'' (SUN 326) artist (January 21, 1959). A longtime foil for Waylon Jennings, and a notorious hell-raiser during the Bluff City's mid-1970s music scene,  as vividly captured in William Eggleston's film ''Stranded In Canton'', McGill will play a miniset  at the start of a bill that includes local burlesque group The Memphis Belles as well as  scuzz-rockers The Dirty Streets and Tanks. McGill's performance is being filmed by director  and author Robert Gordon (It Came From Memphis) as part of a documentary being made  with Irish filmmaker Paul Duane.

- ''REASONS WHY WE'RE HERE'' -
(Jerry McGill)
- ''NO MORE TEARS'' -
Jerry McGill 
 
This are two of the songs that will be on his forthcoming release from Playground Records, songs he wrote himself. An unreleased, unrecorded, unheralded songs from Jerry McGill, filmed for a new  documentary ''Very Extremely Dangerous'' on his life and wild times. (See: Jerry McGill 2)
 
JERRY MCGILL - a singer, songwriter and guitarist spent a short period of time at Sun Records, recording a pair of songs, ''Lovestruck'' and ''I Wanna Make Sweet Love'', with his band the Topcoats on January 21,  1959. He also began to rack up a long list of criminal offenses during this period and claimed that he was arrested 97 times in Memphis on charges ranging from public drunkenness to armed robbery.  During the 1960s and 1970s, Jerry McGill went out on the road with Waylon Jennings, often working under the pseudonym Curtis Buck as the country star's rhythm guitarist and road manager, and co-writing songs including ''Waymore's Blues''.  For a long period beginning in the late 1970s, McGill had largely disappeared under a string of criminal charges including illegal weapons possession and attempted murder. 
 
Jerry McGill changed his name several times, but reappeared in 2009 to star in ''Very Extremely Dangerous'', a feature-length documentary about Jerry McGill's life and his battle against cancer.  Jerry McGill, the famous felonious character had suffered from cancer and kidney trouble, he died on Thursday, June 30, 2013 in Alabama at the age of 73. ''He was charming, but the kind of charm where he'd smile at you, said Jim Lancaster, who had worked with McGill as a producer and songwriter partner, ''and then run off with your wife. He really was like the last of the bad-guy cowboys. He was an outlaw down to his souls. 
- ''HOOCHIE COOCHIE MAN'' -

 

Additional material shot by John T Davis, Paul Duane and Robert Gordon.

JERRY MCGILL -  A TRUE JERRY MCGILL TESTIMONIAL FROM RONALD RICH, HIS DRUMMER IN THE TOPCOATS IN 1959 - ''I played drums with Eddie Cash and The Madcaps, Dickie Lee, Mac Davis, Jerry Reed, Ray Stevens, The   Marvels, Jerry McGill and The Topcoats, and a few other Memphis groups plus my Sun sessions. I knew  George Klein, Elvis, Sam Phillips, and a few of the other Memphis music influencers''.
 
''I played with Jerry McGill (the only name I knew him by) when he was starting out as a singer and until   The Topcoats finally disbanded. Honestly, I don't remember why we disbanded but I went away to Georgia  Tech for college and that's all I can remember. Jerry was a really great guy and very friendly to me. The girls   were all over him whenever he played live.
  
He had a musical soul and was destined to do well. At the time, I   was doing session work playing drums at Sun Studios at the age of 17. If you recall the drums in   ''Lovestruck'', you know my work''.  ''The musicians playing on ''Lovestruck'' and I Wanna Make Sweet Love'' were Charlie Rich on piano (I  think), Bill Black on bass, Martin Willis on sax, and I think Brad Suggs on guitar. The session ran about 3   hours as far as I can recall. None of Jerry's other band members played on the actual record. For some  reason, they wanted me on both A and B sides. I remember giving Charlie Rich (no relation) a ride after a  recording session to the Holiday Inn in Memphis one night and this might have been the one, but this was   over 50 years ago. Charlie was not big yet but very talented''.
 
''I definitely remember Martin Willis, a Sun powerhouse, playing sax with me on Jerry's only Sun record.   The backup singers on ''Lovestruck'' were Opal Green, Twila Taylor, Nanci Drake and Carolyn Maharrey. All   of the girls were juniors at Treadwell. Jerry McGill was very talented and was really great to his entire band.   Jerry was totally dedicated at the time to making it in the music business. I understand after I moved away he   became very involved in producing records as well but I lost touch with him''.
 
''Here are the names of all the Topcoat musicians who played with Jerry McGill on all live performances   around Memphis. You may remember some of them. The group was tight and put out an amazing sound for a   garage type band in 1959. Jim King was lead guitar and band manager, Ronnie Rich on drums, Frank Thomas on bass and keyboards, Bobby Scott rhythm guitar, Dwayne Fowler sax''.
 
''Jim King ran the band very well and kept us really booked. Some of the live appearances got "quite lively''  including an occasional fight in the parking lot. There is a Commercial Appeal newspaper photo of the   Topcoats playing at the National Guard Armory with Jerry standing on a round stage but I don't know how to   get it posted. George Klein cooked up this huge "dance" at the Armory to promote a teenage dance club   according to what I heard and Barney Sellers did the photography for the newspaper promotion''.
 
''Unfortunately, the entire band never got in the photo since Jerry was the real focal point. By the way, the   girls backing Jerry on ''Lovestruck'' are also on the Jerry Lee Lewis song "Let's Talk About It''. Not sure what   happened to all the Topcoats. Jim King is alive and well and living in Texas. No idea what happened to the   others. Most people assume Jimmy M. Van Eaton played on Jerry McGill's session but that is not true. I   stopped by to see Jimmy M. Van Eaton in Memphis a couple of years ago during a visit from California. He   was working out in Germantown for an investment company and gave me some new drumsticks from his   line of Jimmy M. VanEaton drum products. What a great guy! He has a wonderful history with Sun and   should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in my opinion. JM is the only session drummer that actually has his picture on the Sun Studios wall and it is certainly earned. Jimmy Lott was another Sun session drummer I   knew. He also went to East High while I was a student there. I understand Jimmy died. We had a few "battle   of the drums" on stage for the kids which was always fun. I think I won. And he thinks he won. The one that   really won was the student...they had great fun''.
 
''I still have the original ''Lovestruck'' 45rpm in my collection. It is one of my prized possessions. If Jerry   sees this message, I wish him continued success with his new music coming out. I live in San Diego and   have been in California since 1968. Don't know if Very Extremely Dangerous will ever get a viewing out   here but if it does, I'll be the first in line. Wish I could get my hands on a DVD if one comes out''.
 
''Glad to hear Jerry is alive and hanging in there. He may remember me. It has been 53 years since we cut his   only Sun Record but maybe he will. I had no idea he would take the path he did with crime and all the other   crazy stuff but it sounds like he finally came back to his roots and love of music which is really his calling in   life in my opinion. If you ever see or talk with him, please tell him Ronnie Rich, his old drummer from the   Topcoats said hello. And let him know his guitar player, Jim King, asks about him as well''.
 
Testimony by Ronnie Rich, June/July 2010
 
 
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