Howard Gerald Clower, or Jerry (Jay-Ree) Clower, evoked a phenomenal reaction in response to his humor. Folks either loved or loathed Jay-rees’s tales, but in common with others who have been called “Mouth of the South everyone knew exactly who Jerry Clower from Liberty (Yazoo), Mississippi, was.

Much of what made the former fertilizer salesman for Mississippi Chemical Company a comic legend were the lovable characters and memorable punch lines of his stories. A Mississippi native, Clower studied at Mississippi State University and belonged to the Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity. He made light of his self-proclaimed, unsuccessful football career and poked fun at himself for not being the best football player. In tales of these events on the field Jay-Ree hysterically proclaims, “Knock em out Jay-Ree.

Clower continued his authenticity, telling jokes surrounding Southeastern Conference Football, a particularly obsessive subject of the South. A 2012 Harvard blog refers to Clower asa teller of tall tales in the tradition of Mark Twain and Davy Crockett.” Perhaps the tallest of Jay-ree’s tales were his Coon Hunt experiences in which Clower excitedly exclaims, “Knock ‘em out John.

Clower gained national attention in 1971 with his album Jerry Clower from Yazoo City, Mississippi, Talkin’. The platinum record remained on the Top 20 of Country Charts for 30 weeks and made more than a million dollars without any pre-publicity. Earning the name, “the Mouth of Mississippi,Clower recorded his second successful album, “From the Mouth of Mississippi.Clower’s third album, “Clower Power, continued with the raucous antics of the Ledbetter family.

Clower was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 1973 at age 47. 

The Southern Baptist production, “Country Crossroads,” was a popular radio show Clower co-hosted and remained involved with two decades. Clower was proud of his Southern heritage, Christian faith and his time in the Navy. He was presented an array of awards including three bronze stars and the World War II Victory Medal. Clower’s faith and salvation were the inspiration for 1977’s “Ain’t God Good, an album that included a worship service in which Clower comfortably shared his personal testimony. The testimony became Clower’s first book and later the thesis for an inspirational documentary film that won an award from the New York Independent Film and Video Festival.

Clower interviewed other comics and country music stars with Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius on, “Nashville on the Road” from 1976-1981. America couldn’t get enough of Clower’s charismatic character.

During his 27-year career, he also served as a commercial spokesman, advertising anything from barbeque to fishing gear.Even though Clower’s last album was 1983’s Peaches and Possums, six more albums were produced in Clower’s honor after his death in 1998 such as “Legendary Clower” in 1999 and “The Clower Power Collection” in 2005.

By Sasha Kay Dunavant