September 13, 1943 - June 22, 2019
Date of Birth: September 13, 1943
Date of Death: June 22, 2019
Place of Birth: Florence, Alabama
Jerry Carrigan played his first recording session at age 13, and helped develop Muscle Shoals into a thriving music community.
Carrigan traces his musical beginnings to the early days when producers such as Tom Stafford, Kelso Herston, James Joiner and Rick Hall would "still give newcomers a chance." "You might say I was raised in the studio," Carrigan explains. Sessions were his main source of income during high school and his time spent at Florence State College as an accounting major.
"We laid the groundwork for the whole Muscle Shoals R&B movement to begin," Carrigan says of himself and fellow musicians David Briggs and Norbert Putnam, who were part of the original "Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section" in the early sixties.
He played on hits by Arthur Alexander, Jimmy Hughes, The Tams, and Tommy Roe, and also backing Roe in a live performance in Washington, D.C. where they shared the bill with the Beatles during that group's U.S. debut.
In 1965, Carrigan, Briggs and Putnam moved to Nashville, and were soon the hottest studio musicians in that area as well. "The first year I was in Nashville, I did about ninety per cent of the sessions that were done at RCA," Carrigan said. He played on hits for Charlie Rich, Ray Stevens, Charlie Pride, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Johnny Paycheck, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.
In addition to working with top country artists, Carrigan played on recordings by Al Hirt, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joan Baez, Kenny Rogers, Wayne Newton and toured the world with John Denver.
Working with Denver brought him together with Grammy-winning engineer and producer, Roger Nichols. Carrigan contributed to the development of the sound library of the Wendel Jr. Drum Replacement Unit, a Nichols invention.
Few people know right from the start what they want to do with their lives. Among those few are an even smaller number with the talent, timing, and tenacity to make that yearning a reality.
Nashville drummer and producer Jerry Carrigan is one of those few special people. Though not always in the public eye, you've certainly heard him on pop, R&B or country radio. Even if popular music isn't your taste, you've heard the "Carrigan Sound" on jingles for 7-Up, Coke, Chevrolet, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald's, or "Me and My RC", on television soundtracks for Maverick and Simon & Simon, or in the movies Nashville, Every Which Way But Loose, Six Pack, This Is Elvis, Urban Cowboy, or The Gambler.
A native of Florence, Alabama, Carrigan traces his musical beginnings to the early days of Muscle Shoals recording, when the music community was smaller, business was expanding, and producers such as Tom Stafford, Kelso Herston, James Joiner, and Rick Hall still gave newcomers a chance. "You might say I was raised in the studio," Carrigan explains, adding that he played on his first recording session at age thirteen. Sessions were his main source of income during high school and at Florence State College, where he was a reluctant accounting major.
"We laid the groundwork for the whole Muscle Shoals R&B movement to begin," Carrigan says of himself and fellow musicians David Briggs and Norbert Putnam, who were part of the original "Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section" in the early Sixties. They played on Arthur Alexander's "You Better Move On" (the first R&B hit out of Muscle Shoals), followed that with Jimmy Hughes' chartbuster "Steal Away" and later, on numerous hits by Tommy Roe and by The Tams, including "What Kind of Fool". It was during this period that Carrigan backed Tommy Roe in Washington, D.C. on a concert sharing the billing with The Beatles. This was the first live performance of The Beatles in the United States.
Carrigan is especially proud of his work, spanning Muscle Shoals, Memphis, and Nashville with songwriter Dan Penn, who became famous for Aretha Franklin's biggest hits and writing for and producing The Boxtops.
But in 1965, Muscle Shoals had yet to break as a perpetual hitmaker, while the Nashville "legend" was well established. The talented young drummer and his two colleagues, Briggs and Putnam, moved there together that year and worked as a rhythm section, each intending to branch out alone.
And branch they did - very, very fast. Jerry remembers those first few years in Nashville quite fondly. Making the most of the Muscle Shoals contacts who preceded him in coming to Nashville, he soon acquired a following among producers and artists. "The first year I was in Nashville, I did about ninety percent of the sessions that were done at RCA," he recalls. "People just put me right to work." Top producers such as Felton Jarvis, Jerry Kennedy, Owen Bradley, Chet Atkins, and Billy Sherrill all hired Carrigan for record dates. He played on hits for some of the biggest country stars of the era - Charlie Rich, Ray Stevens, Charlie Pride, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Johnny Paycheck, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.
The growth of Nashville into the nation's major recording center during the Seventies can be attributed largely to the city's fabulous musicians, including Jerry Carrigan. No one foresaw the boom in country music that came about during this period, but one thing is clear: as country music grew, so did Carrigan's list of credits. Artists such as Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Jerry Reed, and Kenny Rogers were suddenly superstars, and Carrigan was called in to help create the smash hits that made these artists such as success. As "the drummer most in demand" by Nashville producers, he was by 1977 playing approximately twelve three-hour sessions per week.
As Nashville began drawing talent from both coasts, Jerry added to his list many artists associated with other types of music. He played on records with Al Hirt, Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams, Tom Jones, Henri Mancini, Joan Baez, and the Boston Pops. Through his association with Grammy-winning Nashville producer Larry Butler, he worked with Sammy Davis, Jr., Don McLean, Nana Mouskouri, Kenny Rogers, Paul Anka, Bobby Vinton, Steve & Eydie, Debby Boone, Wayne Newton, and John Denver. He acquired international attention while playing on a CBS show for Johnny Paycheck in London, and subsequently recorded several projects done in Nashville under the direction of famed Italian producer John Reverberi. Carrigan continued his international acclaim while touring the world with John Denver. The Denver association put him together with Grammy-winning engineer and producer, Roger Nichols, whom he's worked with on numerous recording projects; as well as contributing to the development of the sound library of the Wendel Jr. Drum Replacement Unit, a Nichols invention.
An innovator, Carrigan is largely responsible for establishing the "big fat drum sound" associated with Nashville recordings. "I started playing real loose, deep-sounding snare drums on country records. Billy Sherrill loved it. So I started experimenting with different things, different kinds of drums. I bought the first set of concert tom-toms that were in Nashville. I think that's one reason the producers liked my sound. I had a different approach."
With all his national and international success, Carrigan likes to emphasize that he's not a "distant drummer" - in fact, he's usually at home in Nashville and often available for record dates and production projects.
What lies ahead for the "drummer in demand" whose only problem is finding enough time for everything he wants to do? "I think production is my future. I'd like to put to use all the creative ideas and technical knowledge I've attained throughout my career of working with 'the best'."
Rex Allen, Jr.
Chet Atkins & The Boston Pops
Jim Ed Brown
David Allan Coe
Earl Thomas Conley
Cornelius Bros. & Sister Rose
Lacy J. Dalton
Dave & Sugar
Sammy Davis, Jr.
Tom T. Hall
Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme
Jerry Lee Lewis
Oak Ridge Boys
Pozo Seco Singers
Billie Jo Spears
Tompall & The Glaser Brothers
Billy Edd Wheeler
Hank Williams, Jr.