This may not be

world shattering news, but it is to me. I finally got the painter’s pole out that was stuck down the drain pipe. It wasn’t easy. I had to take a long steel pipe and basically jack it out from the the bottom. Pipe, jack and bottom? Ok, that’s enough gay stuff for today. Finally, the drain is unclogged. I dare say it hasn’t been cleaned out since the place was built. That’s over 120 years of crap that was stuck down there. Fucking annoying. I was looking at some old articles that I had written for Rhythms Magazine yesterday, and I thought I would post some of them here from time to time. Nothing much is happening today, so rather than make shit up, I’m going to post this story about a gospel singer I discovered a while ago. Unfortunately a You Tube search for “Jerry Hicks” brings up about 10,000 videos of some other really annoying Jerry Hicks. The real Jer has been obliterated by this dullard. I’ll try and track him down, and also find those cassettes. In the meantime, here is Part One of..

Hicks from a parallel universe.

Welcome back to the Virtual South that I calls home! It seems like a long time since I sat down to write this column, and soo much has happened that, it’s kinda hard to pick up all the pieces from where I left off. Perhaps I should just forget all the junk that I would have written about, like the topical issues of the day for a change, and bring y’all some news about people and places you ain’t never heard about.
Let’s take my good friend Jerry Hicks, late of Pullman Michigan. I first came across Jerry Hicks around about 1994, when I received a cassette in the mail. I put it on the car stereo as I was driving back from the Post Office, and I immediately realized that this was a rare recording indeed. As I listened to the tape I knew that I had found what was possibly the worst southern gospel tape of all time, or more appropriately, it had found me!
I couldn’t find the words to describe the tortured sounds that I heard emanating from my car stereo that day, and yet I was curiously cheered and energized by the unspeakable musical mess that had been thrown together by…who?

I had to find out, and so I called the number on the back of the tape box, and pretty soon the dude himself, Jerry Hicks was on the line. Now I don’t know about you, but my workroom is full of boxes of tapes, CDs, records and all manner of crap that I really should get rid of, and soon. I have a copy of that interview somewhere, but after looking through my third box of cassettes, all of which I should throw out, I still cant find it. It doesn’t matter anyway, because I remember it well. The Jerry Hicks story goes something like this. He was raised in the country. Sang Elvis songs for a bit. Was a ‘mule’ for a drug dealer. (this means he picked up and delivered drugs across state lines). One day he nearly choked to death on a chicken bone which ruined his voice. He decided to go straight and tried to sing gospel. Prayed for his voice to come back. Voice came back. Teamed up with ‘Producer’ Billy H Shively and made the revolutionary recording “Jerry Hicks with the Canaanland Singers”, a copy of which, I am now the proud owner of.

This is not Jerry, but it almost could be… Those matching outfits win the prize!

The point is, although Jerry Hicks’ recordings are rotten to the core, they are in my opinion, great works of art. You couldn’t make a recording like that if you tried. The singing is off. It’s flat. The timing is all out of whack. The rhythm tracks are a law unto themselves and the keyboards sound like they were lifted from a Lawrence Welk record, and grafted brutally into the mix any place they would fit. Yet, despite these atrocities, they have a certain groove and momentum all their own, which no amount of fixing up could improve. Like eccentric, fantastic Frankenstein creations, the songs go forth and wreak havoc, yet with an eerie, insane logic formed from within their own, crazy universe The front cover of Jerry Hicks and the Canaanland. Singers features a picture of Jerry and the group, wearing what is possibly their touring outfits. Red Jackets for the girls and black for the guys, they look for all the world like they should be stripping your stolen car for parts and/or running a crack motel. These folks look like they are straight out of the trailer park from hell, but they have a definite appeal. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s a perverse sense of the absurd, or is it that I’m drawn to wierdos? I don’t think I’m alone.

Not Sherry…unfortunately

Jerry sent me another tape about six months later. This one was called “Jerry Hicks & Sherry, Sings Standing In The River”. Well guess what? This new one was even better than the first! This time the front cover featured a lovely shot of Jerry and Sherry (his daughter), standing by the bank of an unnamed river. Jerry is facing the setting sun and Sherry is at his right, looking across the considerable gut of her pop. It is a pleasant and bucolic scene, marred only by the fact that they are standing by the river, not in it, as the title of the album would have us believe. A minor point I know, but come on, a little authenticity please! Track one, “Power All Power” gets this recording off to a swell start with Jerry in fine voice, backed up by some unearthly vocalizing (or groaning, I’m not sure), and tasty guitar licks over a kick-ass Motown, 4/4 drum machine beat. Jerry, I believe is singing in 3/4-waltz time, but that gives what would normally be a boring song, some well needed ‘edge’. I think I heard a piano in there too, but it could have been Sherry stepping on a raccoon. Naturally in the J. Hicks tradition, none of the above are in tune with each other, which is really the only way to go, if you’re hell bent on breaking new musical ground.
Skip on to track two, and young Sherry is really gettin’ down on that classic song “Build My Mansion”.
Unfortunately it sounds like Sherry is trying to destroy my mansion brick by brick, which she almost succeeds in doing, by singing in a totally different key to the one that the song is actually in….

Part two tomorrow..

While we’re at it, let’s revisit “Tears Will Never Stain The Streets of That City” by “Gods Little People” The Perrys. “This song sums exactly how I feel, up.”