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Jerry Carrigan

Q: Can you tell us something about your background?

JC: I was born in Florence Alabama, September 13, 1943. I attended Coffee High School and The University of North Alabama. I played in the Marching Bands at both institutions, so yes I can read music. From the time I was 12 years old I played in various rock 'n' roll bands until I moved to Nashville in December of 1964. I did my first recording session at age 13 in Nashville with a band I was playing with named Little Joe Allen & the Offbeats. The next band of significance was The Mark V. This band included David Briggs, Norbert Putnam, Marlin Greene, Dan Havely, Charlie Campbell and Jerry Saylor. We were extremely popular with the college Fraternities, playing every weekend at the big southern universities. Later on Dan Penn assumed Jerry Saylor's duty as lead vocalist. I must tell you that was a big turn for the good. Jerry was a great singer, but he lacked the southern black soulfulness of Dan. Later on David, Norbert, Dan and me started another Band Dan Penn & The Pallbearers. We bought a 1956 Cadillac Hearse to travel in, and travel we did. I've gotten a bit out of order here! 

I failed to mention that during all this time I was doing sessions for James Joiner, Tom Stafford and Rick Hall. I was the first drummer in our area to work for Rick Hall and his Fame Studio. In other words I am the first drummer here to play on hit records. The first hit that we had was "You Better Move On" by Arthur Alexander, in 1962. We had many more hits with guys like Tommy Roe, The Tams, Jimmy Hughes and the list goes on & on.

When I moved to Nashville I began a career nothing short of awesome. I have been and still am a very blessed and grateful man. Recording careers with the longevity of mine are a rarity.

Q: Why did you become a drummer?

JC: I became a drummer because I was born to be one. My Dear Mother told me that when I was a baby, still crawling on the floor, that when they (my parents) would buy me a new toy to play with, I would not play with the toys, but instead would crawl to the kitchen, open the cabinets and remove pots & pans and beat on them.... born to play I suppose?

Q: What kind of music did you listen to in the 50's and 60's?

JC: I listened mostly to rock 'n' roll and R&B and those are still my preferences today.

Q: Do you remember the first time you met Elvis and what happened?

JC: The first time that I met Elvis was in June of 1970. What happened was that we cut about 35 sides in 5 nights, later to be known as The Nashville Marathon.

Q: What did Elvis say to you?

JC: Elvis walked in, looked around the studio, came over with extended hand for a handshake and said, "I'm Elvis Presley, nice to meet you...I hear your good"

Q: What impressions did Elvis make on you?

JC: When Elvis entered the room you knew that a "Star" was in your midst. Elvis made the impression to me that he was a really nice guy, with an immense amount of talent and charisma. I was right on both accounts........... He made very positive impressions on me and I keep them 'til this day.

Q: Was Elvis as good a singer as the fans believe?

JC: Elvis was actually a much better singer than the fans ever realized.

Q: Which Elvis song is your favourite?

JC: My favourite is "Suspicious Minds"

Q: How many sessions and songs have you played on through the years?

JC: Gee this is an almost impossible question to answer with a lot of accuracy. I will guess around 12.000 sessions, and the songs have to be in the hundreds of thousands. Sorry...wish that I had kept immaculate records of all I did, but unfortunately I did not.

Q: Could Elvis have lived today? And if so would he still be considered to be the King or just another singer among all the others? How come he was so special?

JC: I presume that you mean if Elvis was alive today. Yes, he would still be on the throne. He was special in many ways; his Looks, his magnificent voice, his generosity, his charisma and the list could go on ad-infinitum.

Q: What was so special about Nashville when you moved to the city in 1965? 

JC: Nashville was ready for a change and we (Norbert Putnam, David Briggs and me) were ready to give it a shot. Nashville was very special because of "The Grand Ole Opry" plus lots of really "great" musicians. These guys were so fast at getting their parts it was frightening to me at first. When you work every day with guys like Bob Moore, Floyd Cramer, "Pig" Robins,
Grady Martin, Chet Atkins and the like it's hard not to grateful and a bit humbled. These were great times!

Q: What comes to your mind when you remember the time and period back in the 60's in Nashville?

JC: Lot's of wine, women and songs. Making lots of hit records etc.

Q: You have worked with a whole range of great superstars in your fantastic career. Great artist like Elvis and Johnny Cash. But how will you compare Elvis and "The Man in Black" (singing style, as a person, charisma, their songs etc.)?

JC: Their singing styles in my opinion were totally different, Elvis more pop and Johnny more country. As men they were both extremely nice and very for their songs... to me that is obvious, they were very different.

Q: In which way did you contribute to the development of the sound library of the Wendel Jr. Drum Replacement Unit? An invention made by Roger Nichols, right?

JC: I made a lot of Roger's samples while I was in L.A. recording with John Denver. I spoke with Roger today. He is in L.A. at the NAMN show promoting his new line of "plug-ins", so be on the look for them.

Q: Please tell us about working with David Briggs and Norbert Putnam?

JC: I have worked with these terrific guys since I was about 15 years of age. I have worked many sessions with them and a tremendous amount of live gigs. Every time was unique and very satisfying. I don't have enough paper to write about just how terrific these guys are. I am honoured to have the great pleasure of calling them my friends as well as fellow musicians.

Q: Which drum instruments (name) did you use in the 60's and 70's in Nashville?

JC: Ludwig in the 60's and early 70's, Pearl in the mid seventies.

Q: Some say that you are the man behind the so-called Nashville "big fat drum sound". What is that? And how come the drums are so "fat" in the sound? What did you do?

JC: It is a big fat sound. This was conceived through countless hours of tuning, drumhead and drum changes. If I were to tell you what I did then it would not be just my "big fat" drum sound now would it? Ha, Ha!

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