Jerry Kennedy: Shreveport Guy and Musical Icon
Over the past few months, I've talked A LOT about Shreveport's musical history. We've talked about everyone from James Burton to Lead Belly to Shelby Singleton. But one guy who is a Shreveport native that gets a lot praise by everyone but his hometown is Jerry Kennedy.
Unlike a lot of the other folks we talked about, Jerry isn't a famous performer. You've probably never seen him on a stage or on an album cover. But, if you pay attention, his name and finger prints are all over the music industry. You just may have to read the liner notes on albums or pay close attention at the Opry House in Nashville.
Kennedy's passion for music started right here in Shreveport. Over the years, Kennedy said seeing Hank Williams' last performance at the Municipal Auditorium changed his life. He also saw Elvis on that stage numerous times and recalls getting frustrated during Elvis' performances because he couldn't hear the music because of all the girls screaming.
Now Kennedy, himself, was a performer of minor note in his younger years. Releasing some singles and instrumental albums through the 50s and 60s. He was a member of the studio band that played on what is considered Bob Dylan's greatest album, "Blonde on Blonde". He also scored 4 Grammy awards over his career.
However, Kennedy's probably best known for his work as a producer. He played on or produced every single one of Jerry Lee Lewis' country albums. As a producer for Mercury Records and leader of Smash Records (replacing another Shreveport guy and his mentor Shelby Singleton) he helped craft some of the biggest hits in country music and give unheard artists a chance to reach the masses.
Probably Jerry's biggest discovery was Tom T. Hall, who was a songwriter but could never really get traction or steady pay. Hall credits Kennedy with helping him get his big break. Hall, from 1974, is quoted as saying: "I had a lot of good songs I couldn't get recorded. Jerry Kennedy of Mercury Records asked me to record them, so I did." After getting a chance from Kennedy, Hall went on to record nine LPs with Mercury Records from 1968 to 1974, including the smash hit "Harper Valley PTA."
Kennedy also produced huge records for everyone from the Statler Brothers to Reba to Roger Miller.
In Nashville, Jerry Kennedy is a country music legend and icon. We in Shreveport should probably hold one of our own in equal or higher regard.