|Birth name||Jerry Glenn Kennedy|
|Born||August 10, 1940|
|Origin||Shreveport, Louisiana, United States|
Rock and Roll
|Occupation(s)||Producer-Songwriter, Rhythm guitarist|
|Instruments||Vocals, Guitar, Dobro|
|Years active||1961 – Present|
Kennedy was born in Shreveport, Louisiana. As a child, he recalls "beating on broomsticks and other things" as his initial forays into music-making. His first guitar was a Silvertone, which his parents bought for him when he was "eight or nine." He began taking guitar lessons from local guitar legend Tillman Franks. Kennedy attended various shows around the Shreveport area as a boy, including the legendary Louisiana Hayride. One show he particularly remembers attending is Hank Williams' last show at the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium saying, "I was a kid sittin' on the front row."
In 1954, Elvis Presley performed on Louisiana Hayride, and Kennedy was in attendance with a friend. He recalls their frustration with the young girls who screamed incessantly, preventing his friend and him from hearing Scotty Moore, Elvis' guitar player, clearly during the performance. "[W]e got mad at all of the girls screamin', because we couldn't hear Scotty when Elvis was doin' his shakin'. It upset us that we couldn't hear the guitar."
Kennedy signed a recording contract with RCA Records at age 11. He subsequently recorded several singles, several of which included Chet Atkins. Thereafter Kennedy became something of a teen idol at his high school. Though he never became a star as a vocalist, he sang background vocals for several Mercury Records artists as a teenager. After working recording sessions around Shreveport for several years, he was convinced to move to Nashville by Irving Green, president of Mercury Records. Kennedy arrived in Nashville just as the country music boom of the 1960s was getting underway. Soon after his arrival, he was asked to not only work as a talent scout for Mercury's country subsidiary, Smash Records, but to begin producing sessions and playing in recording sessions as well. He was one of the session musicians used by Bob Dylan in recording his classic album, Blonde On Blonde in 1966.
A recipient of four Grammys, Kennedy has seen his dobro and guitar work featured on the albums of artists as varied as Elvis Presley, Kris Kristofferson and Ringo Starr. Another work done by Kennedy on dobro was Jeannie C. Riley's "Harper Valley PTA". Kennedy played or produced on nearly all of the country music records of Jerry Lee Lewis.
In 1968, Shelby Singleton, who had served something of a mentor to Kennedy, left Smash. Kennedy took the reins, and ran Smash Records for 16 years, working with country music artists such as Roger Miller, Reba McEntire, Johnny Rodriguez, and Tom T Hall. Hall, speaking in 1974, credited Kennedy with getting him started in the business. "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 receiving this encouragement from Kennedy, Hall went on to record nine LPs with Mercury Records from 1968 to 1974, including his famous "Harper Valley PTA". Kennedy himself left Mercury in 1984 to start JK Productions, through which he produced albums by The Statler Brothers and other artists.
In 1987, Kennedy and David Briggs released a cut for Mercury Records credited to Joe Kenyon, which was a cover of Vangelis' "Hymne". E & J Gallo Winery used this version in its commercials, and it went to number 33 on Hot Country Songs.
Kennedy is the father of songwriter, musician and producer Gordon Kennedy.
- Cusic, Don. (1998) "Jerry Kennedy". In The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Paul Kingsbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 277-8.
- "It's a Two Man Collection", by Willie G. Moseley, for Vintage Guitar Magazine, 3 September 2009. Accessed 1 January 2010.
- CMT Profile of Kennedy
- Country Music Hall of Fame press release, dated 25 January 2008.
- Bio of Bryan Kennedy, Jerry Kennedy's son.
- Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 24 February 1974, "Hall Agrees: 'If It Sounds Country, It's Country.'", retrieved, 1 January 2010.
- Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. p. 223. ISBN 0-89820-177-2.