As for back as Jerry can remember he has memories
of his Dad playing his guitar and singing Jimmie Rodgers’ songs.
He can recall when his Dad told him about how he met and sang on the same stage with his Hero, Jimmie Rodgers.
No one ever knows what it takes to influence a child's life; but as time goes on it is easily seen how that one particular
story helped shape this one particular, and special gifted boys future. A generation later we find Jerry continuing to grow
up with the same Country Music background, and another Jimmie Rodgers fan singing Jimmies songs. This one would also become a Legend in his own time; his name, Ernest Tubb. It follows that Jerry would also meet and sing a song on
the same stage as his new found hero, Ernest Tubb. Jerry says, “I can remember many times out in the swamps pushing barges; I would miss so many things I thought I wanted to see; but this one time shows my timing was perfect. I was able
to take time off to go hear Ernest Tubb sing in Pierre Part, La. When Ernest Tubb took a quick break, I got a chance to
sing a song with The Texas Troubadours, which at that time included in part, Jack Greene, Leon Rhodes and Cal Smith”.
“Going back in time when I was 9 years old until I was l6; my Dad moved us to Brownsville, Texas where he made nets
for shrimp boats. When times got hard, Dad moved us back to South Louisiana where the oil field industry was starting to boom. That when it all started. I got work on an oil field boat and later became a licensed Boat Captain at age l7”.
Lonely days and lonely nights in the swamps of South Louisiana, Jerry found himself bringing entertainment, while playing
his guitar and singing to men living out their lives on quarter boats and oil field drilling rigs. His popularity grew, and among
oil field hands he soon became known as ‘Tugboat Jerry’ a name that would later become a trademark to describe an internationally known artist and soon to become, household name among fans, friends, and family. Tugboat Jerry's first endeavor to release his musical talent was to write and record a song entitled, none other than, ‘Tugboat Jerry’. This
descriptive song frames a picture of the life and times of Tugboat Jerry. While Jerry's musical talent seemed to set him
apart with local friends and fans; actually, music was Jerry's least talent. Constrained in the swamps, Jerry learned to
diversify time available. It was there that he became inspired to paint and carve. In Jerry's case it was no small challenge
to paint the portrait of Dolly Parton, but that was nothing compared to the woodcarving of Dolly carved out on the Tip
End of a Toothpick. This carving not only got him Dolly's personal attention, and nearly got Dolly in trouble for being
late for her show; (her fascination over the carving held her for over 3 calls, for her to perform), but it also got Tugboat
Jerry worldwide attention. The News Media, locally, as well as Journalist from Televisions ‘Real People’,
‘That's Incredible’ and ‘PM Magazine’ have traveled to Tugboat Jerry's doorsteps to interview and video his carvings
and various talents; they are responsible for taking Tugboat Jerry to the television world. This multi-talented man begins
a journey from small beginnings that is soon launched into an entirely new career. Most audiences find that it is uniquely interesting to follow this story; so now, for the next chapter. After Ernest Tubb died in 1984, Jerry began pursuing the
idea of being the first to record an album honoring his hero, and in 1985 God graciously honored his desire and he
became the first person to record a tribute album called “Tugboat Jerry Remembering Ernest Tubb”. Tugboat
says, “I was even fortunate enough to have two Texas Troubadours, Jack Greene and Leon Rhodes accompany me”.
The future would prove the album to be a total success. Just as every Saturday Midnight Jamboree at the Ernest Tubb
Record Shop, Jerry opens every one of his ‘Remembering Ernest Tubb shows’ with Jimmie Rodgers song “Waiting for a Train”. The overwhelming response of acceptance from the fans is proof that people are starving to hear someone sing
these legendary songs. Fans still love their music, and tell Jerry continuously that they are happy that he sounds so much
like Ernest Tubb as he sings his songs, because it brings back so many happy memories to them. It was after a ten year
layoff, breaking with the 1995 Jimmie Rodgers Festival that Tugboat Jerry started playing for benefits, at private parties,
and traveling the Bluegrass Circuit. Tugboat says, " it was like I was jump started after I helped open for Tanya Tucker at
the l995 Jimmie Rodgers Festival. It’s hard to know where to start this story and it’s always hard to end. There is just so
much to say about this multi-talented man. This tugboat ride takes you down through the Cajun Swamps of Louisiana up
to Nashville, Tennessee, by way of Meridian, Ms. where Jimmie Rodgers and Ernest Tubb lovers embraced Tugboat
making him an Honorary Citizen with a key to the City. It takes you across our great country making a giant stop in
Panola County, at Carthage, Texas, home of the Tex Ritter Museum & The Texas Country Music Hall of Fame where
Tugboat Jerry sang for Ernest Tubbs 1999 Induction. They declared a Tugboat Jerry Day; also giving him a key to the City.
TUGBOAT JERRY ‘ LOOKING BACK’
Looking back, I somehow feel truly honored, and that it has become my privilege to help carry the torch that Ernest Tubb lit when he helped establish the Jimmie Rodgers Foundation in Meridian, Miss. As I look back and follow certain events of my life (like hindsight) it seems almost obvious that it was handed to me to help continue what these two great Legends started.
Ernest Tubbs journey on the road to stardom connects directly to Jimmie Rodgers. People are still interested in how Ernest Tubb was inspired by him. When he first started out he tried to sound just like Jimmie Rodgers. Ironically, a throat operation would end up a blessing in disguise because his voice changed, giving him his own unique style.
When we follow Ernest Tubbs story we all agree that he loved Texas, but there can be no-doubt that he left part of his heart in Meridian, Mississippi. History testifies that he was powerfully instrumental in helping to establish the Jimmy Rodges Foundation in Meridian where Jimmy was born. According to a vast company of witnesses, it was done without personal gain to help honor his hero. That torch was lit and the momentum to keep the fire burning would appear to be part of my heritage.
Without any deliberate intention on my part it soon became clear that I should not despise small beginnings. As a licensed Tugboat Captain confined most of my young boy life in the Inland Waterways of Louisiana, a mere Radio became my connection to the outside world. Life in the swamps at age16 found me listening to Ernest Tubb.
You could also say, 'I grew-up on it'. My moms name is Sadie; my Dad would always sing Jimmie Rodgers popular, “Sadie, My Little Lady” as one of his favorites to flatter my mom, and also fill her heart with joy. I think of my dad as being smart because I noticed it always worked; not just on mom but on all of us kids too. It was then he would recant the story of when he sang on the same stage with Jimmie Rodgers. This was entertainment at home for us; my entire family turned out to be musically talented; and although these were my small beginning, they inspired, and I learned to play my own guitar. Yep! I sang Ernest Tubbs songs; but no need to guess; you can be certain, just like Ernest Tubb, I yodeled a little Jimmie Rodgers too..
I could have never dreamed that I would be the
first person to record a tribute album in honor of Ernest Tubb. I am still
in awe myself at how that all came about. Perhaps one day I'll write
a book; just to tell how awesome that part of my lifes journey was,
and how it took it's turns to have me at that right place, at that right
time. Fortunate! You bet I was fortunate! and I know it too! Having the
Troubadours accompany me was a dream out of this world.. Even
Jack Greene still remains shocked when he tells me how so unplanned such
a moment came about for him to be there, and it still makes him laugh and
shake his head when he recalls that moment when I started singing and he
felt like Ernest had come alive. Jack wrote these words on the back
of my album and I thought you might enjoy them, he said, "while recording
" Remembering Ernest Tubb", my memory goes back to all the people I've
met during the five years and the five million miles I spent with E.T.;
people who simply idolized the man and some who even imitated him with
their music. Tugboat Jerry is as real, authentic and devoted to the
man's music as anyone I know. When I learned Jerry was going to record
this album of Ernest Tubb songs, I just had to play drums on it.
Let me tell you, at times during the sessions, sitting alone in my drum
cubical with the head phones on, I could close my eyes and once again live
a dream that was the greatest part of my life. At times, it was so
real to me that it was frightening. The emotions I felt were sweet and
sad, but happy, memories of the greatest man I ever knew. This album includes
some of my favorite songs and Jerry does them so well. You will be
a 'Tugboat Jerry' fan, especially if you were an E.T. fan. There
were qualities in people that E.T. always looked for; honesty , dedication,
devotion, and seriousness about the business... Jerry has them all".
Thank you Jack for those nice words and such a fine compliment too.
Another 10 years would pass before Jack and I would begin doing Tribute Shows honoring Ernest Tubb; and of all the places I could have picked it was through another act of fate that it began in Meridian, Mississippi where Ernest Tubb had been so instrumental in founding the Jimmie Rodges Festival. Well! that's another story and could very well be another good chapter in a book. E-mail me if your interested, and when I get some time, I'll call time-out to share it with you.
Thanks again for stopping by to visit with me. Come again; I'll be adding more stories from time to time; and as a matter of fact, here's another one that comes to mine! On the back of my album, it shows a picture of me presenting Ernest Tubb with a portrait that I painted of him and his hero, Jimmie Rodgers. (He would always tell me how disappointed he was that he had never met Jimmie Rodgers;) (that's what inspired me to paint it for him). It can be viewed hanging in the Ernest Tubb Record Shop on Broadway in Nashville. I said, "Mr. Tubb, I sure hope you like it". The smile on Ernest Tubbs face tells it all. Hope you get to see the portrait if you get up Nashville way. Just tell-um' Tugboat Jerry sent you.
I want to thank all Ernest Tubb fans that still love to hear his music. You have played a big part in my life. You bring me great joy when you tell me continuously that you are so glad to hear me singing Ernest Tubb songs and I am equally thrilled to hear you say it brings back so many happy memories to you.
While it's still a mystery to me how I seem to be part of a pattern connected to two great legends, like Ernest Tubb and Jimmie Rodgers, I fully accept with all due respect the responsibility to carry on all that is right to this end. When The Jimmie Rodgers Museum and The Jimmie Rodgers Festival made me Ambassador to their great organizations it made me look back, and in looking back I could see so many events; I remembered so many situations; recalled so many occurrences, and Somehow I know; that this is ALL right for me.
In the words of a great Legend,Thanks! Thanks-A-Lot!