• The Music In Me: The Last Track

    Note: Gilbert Klein is the newest contributor to Computer Audiophile. Gilbert's stories will appear monthly in his new column titled The Music in Me. Enjoy - Editor

    I hope you’re okay with spooky, because I’ve got some for you. But, y’know, the good kind.

    My pal Johnny had worked for some of the greats in the 70’s and 80’s before settling in for a long ride with the Rolling Stones. He’s seen stuff that you or I would dine on for years, and my favorite story of his is from when he worked with Jerry Williams, a brilliant musician, songwriter and singer. He wrote songs that others had huge hits with, he was highly regarded, he sang soulfully and played —and mastered— every instrument in the studio. I’d heard that by the time he was recording his album “Gone,” he and Warner Brothers were at each other’s throats, and everyone knew Warner’s was going to bury the album: limited distribution and no promotion whatsoever. No tour, no radio, no support, no merch; It was going to be DOA, but the recording had to take place or he’d owe them a lot of money.

    Years later Los Angeles musicians knew Jerry for all the songs he’d given to Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Robert Plant and many others, but this was before all that, and they’d cut all the material he had, and that night on the last day of recording, they had more than enough songs for what Warner’s expected from him, but still… he wanted to say… more. The album was finished; just mixing and sequencing left, and time was running out, but still he wanted… more. Didn’t know what.

    Warner’s wouldn’t put up any money for more time, and the musicians had gone home. He had no more songs to record and he only two hours to write, record and master whatever else he did. He had no more songs, but still… The musicians were gone and the clock was ticking.

    Now it was time to put something on tape, and Jerry stood on the dais, quietly, almost serene, while Johnny and the engineer waited to hear… what? In the studio, Williams said, “Give me a minute,” and he put his chin on his chest and he seemed to be asleep, when after about a minute of … silence, he lifted his chin and said softly, “Now.” The engineer had all of his volumes set, so he rolled the tape and sat back to hear what Jerry had, and Johnny doesn’t remember anyone speaking in the booth as they stood, stared, stunned, as Jerry sang a heartfelt, mournful tune about a man talking with God about his music. Four minutes later Jerry stopped singing, his chin fell back on his chest and again he stood in silence, for maybe a minute, maybe a half, no one knows. It was a shocked silence in the booth as out in the studio Jerry stood, composed, chin on his chest, and then he snapped his head up and seemed to jerk awake, and he said, “Just give me a minute, I’ll come up with something.”

    Even more now, the engineer and Johnny were stunned. It was beautiful, it had affected them deeply, and if he had this song in his back pocket, then why hadn’t he brought it out before this? It was beautiful, it was moving, and it was reverential. And what did he mean by that ‘give me a minute’ thing? But that’s what it was: Jerry Williams had no memory of singing anything.

    It took a moment to register that Jerry hadn’t realized he’d been singing. They said, “Jerry, you just did it! You gave us the last song for the album, man. You did it!” He had no idea. And you can listen to that song, but first I want to you know something interesting about the track and then something astonishing about the track.

    During the mic set-up for the track (and before anyone, including Jerry, knew what was coming) Johnny remembers, “... there was a portable wooden dais with a lectern on it for orchestra leaders to conduct an orchestra. It was a large room capable of a full orchestra. Jerry stood on the dais while singing the lyrics… and thumped his foot while singing. The recording engineer complained about the sound bleeding into the vocal mic…but instead of not thumping his foot… Jerry just told the engineer to put a mic down by his foot!!! And Keep The Thumping Loud And Clear On The Track!!! Thereby being the only real percussion on the whole track.”

    Now, that’s interesting, right? But wait! He knew he needed to flesh out the track, but all the musicians were gone and it was late and time was running out on Warner’s tab, and the song was… reverential… it needed something special. And then Jerry Williams had an idea.

    He went into the booth and recorded fifteen, twenty tracks of one note each. He recorded each single note as long as his breath would allow, and every track was a note and every note had its own fader on the board. A half a minute of A, maybe a half minute of B, then C and all the notes he needed, half-notes maybe, I don’t know. But as you know, a chord is made up of several related notes; for instance, an A is typically complemented by D and E, and what they had was all those notes for a music track. Using the faders, Jerry slid the sliders, faded up, faded down, and played those notes and formed the background music. Then they mastered it, and it was done. And you can listen to it any second now, but I have one more word of caution for you before you listen: the song will sound “produced.” It will sound “professional.” Yes, it’s double-tracked and the background music will sound like a finished track. But there were no tricks that night, no studio tricks at all when, in a desperate hour, Jerry Williams recorded this conversation with God and had no idea he was doing it, then he recorded the backing track and he walked away. The year was 1979, and he gave the album to Warner’s where it passed into obscurity, and thereafter Jerry wrote and recorded a lot of music, and gave a long list of songs to artists who were successful with them before he passed into eternity in 2005. I think the man was immensely talented and I’m glad to be able to introduce you to him.

    Johnny says, “There is a part where his vocal turns into some very high singing… almost screaming. And when you hear the lyrics you can tell that what the song is about is his inability to figure out what the lyrics should be. He’s singing about not being able to figure out what the words are. Amazing!”

    And he says that a fan of Jerry Williams’ has re-released “Gone” and he says it’s available. So, if you’re interested, y’know, have at it. And because I am not above bribing you to like this column, here is another song by Jerry Williams from his album, “The Peacemaker,” with Eric Clapton supplying a soaring solo. Here’s the song we’ve been talking about, it’s called “This Song,” and the bonus track with Clapton is “Sending Me Angels.” Rock on, Jerry Williams, we hardly knew ye.

    This Song -

    Sending Me Angels -

    Engineer Michael Braunstein (left) with Jerry Williams at the board at the Record Plant Room B monitoring individual notes he'd recorded.
    Copyright Michael Braunstein

    Gilbert Klein has too many degrees and not enough stories. He’s been a radio talk show host, a nightclub owner, event producer, and has written two books: FAT CHANCE about the legendary KFAT radio, and FOOTBALL 101. He threatens to write one more. He spent 25 years in New York, 25 years in San Francisco, and is now purportedly retired in Baja.

    Comments 16 Comments
    1. esimms86's Avatar
      esimms86 -
      Thanks for the great though bittersweet story and welcome to CA. It makes me wonder how many amazingly talented musicians went unknown or otherwise did not receive their due as a consequence of the odd inner working of the music business.
    1. Nikhil's Avatar
      Nikhil -
      Wow! Great story. Thanks Gilbert for bringing to light Jerry Williams.
      I for one will be re looking album liners for mention of the name.
    1. Paul R's Avatar
      Paul R -
      I have to go hit the Internet. I know of two Jerry Williams, neither one of which seems to be this chap. One was a radio talk show host, and the other was a Swedish rocker named Sven Fernstrom who took the English name "Jerry Williams."

      This was one cool article, and the clips were really nice to listen to.


    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      If anyone missed the link in the article to Jerry's credits, here it is. The list is amazing.

      Jerry Lynn Williams | Credits | AllMusic
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Here is some additional info about the re-release of Gone. It's available at Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/Gone-Jerry-Williams/dp/B00QG6IAUO

      "First scheduled for release in 1979, Jerry Williams' debut album for Warner Brothers Records was pulled from distribution before it ever made the record stores, victim of a dispute with the label. But the story didn t end there; though only promotional copies of the album were ever minted this record was indeed Gone those copies have been passed from hand over the last 35 years and have become hotly sought-after collector items. But then, such a strange turn of events somehow suits Jerry Williams; born in Oklahoma and raised in the Ft. Worth, Texas area, the man is one of the great mysteries of modern music.

      Gone was going to be the breakthrough album for Williams. Produced by Chris Kimsey as his first project following the production of the Rolling Stones smash Some Girls album, Gone offered a totally unique mix of rock and soul, and featured players like bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn, drummer Jeff Porcaro and guitarist Steve Cropper. But, due to a falling-out with the label so severe that Williams was served with a restraining order barring him from entering the Warner Bros. building, the album was quashed. But Williams wasn t done; two years after its release, singer Delbert McClinton hit the Top Ten with the Gone track "Givin' It Up for Your Love," and the next year Eric Clapton would record such Williams songs as "Forever Man," "Pretending" and "Running on Faith." Bonnie Raitt began recording Williams originals in 1982 and has never quit. Fans like Stevie Ray Vaughan, ZZ Top, the Eagles and the Fabulous Thunderbirds have spread the Texan's songs around the world, with millions of copies sold.

      Now, as one of the most enigmatic and intriguing musical figures of the past 50 years, someone whose outsized talent landed him in Little Richard's band at the age of 16 (with another guitarist named Jimmy James a.k.a. Jimi Hendrix) and someone whom the Los Angeles Times eulogized after his death in 2005 as probably the most successful unknown songwriter in rock and rhythm and blues. Jerry Williams is an artist whose time has come. Finally.

      Our Real Gone reissue of Gone comes with liner notes by Williams champion Bill Bentley, who has over the years bought about 50 copies of the LP to share with friends a long-overdue CD debut to say the least!
    1. WINDIANRECORDS's Avatar
      Wow, I just ripped a Jerry Williams record for Bob Berberich, the drummer on the '72 LP "Jerry Williams"; I'm going to reissue a local DC band by the name of "The Hangmen"'s first 7" on which Bob played, and after spending a while at his record shop he handed me the Williams LP and said "you have to listen to this" ... Some of the songs are covers that aren't my style, but some of them absolutely wail! Will definitely check out the Gone reissue, thanks for this!
    1. Skip Pack's Avatar
      Skip Pack -
      Now, for neck-wrenching swerve, I noticed the mention of KFAT in Gilbert Klein's mini-bio. As I lived 12 or so miles from the KFAT epicenter, Gilroy, California, for most of KFAT's curious existence, it was hugely formative (deformative?) to my musical outlook. Hundreds of prejudices ruined. I ordered the book. For a song that summarizes KFAT look up "Up in Northern California where the Palm Tree Meets the Pine", originally by Danny O'Keefe. Avoid listening to it in proximity to any HR personnel.
    1. Gilbert Klein's Avatar
      Gilbert Klein -
      Quote Originally Posted by Skip Pack View Post
      Now, for neck-wrenching swerve, I noticed the mention of KFAT in Gilbert Klein's mini-bio. As I lived 12 or so miles from the KFAT epicenter, Gilroy, California, for most of KFAT's curious existence, it was hugely formative (deformative?) to my musical outlook. Hundreds of prejudices ruined. I ordered the book. For a song that summarizes KFAT look up "Up in Northern California where the Palm Tree Meets the Pine", originally by Danny O'Keefe. Avoid listening to it in proximity to any HR personnel.

      Wow. Someone reads the fine print. Thanks for the KFAT shout-out. This was my first submission here, and now I am trying to decide what will follow it. You may have just helped, Skip. You are so right that the Danny O'Keefe song is a perfect intro to KFAT, but I can do one better, and I might for the next essay. But keep an open mind ready for next month's essay. There I said it- you just decided for me. Thanks. And I hope you like the book.
      Let me add this: I used to get to KFAT to do my work around midnight, long after all the jocks had their picks of whichever albums came in that day and weren't needed by the by the MD, so when I got there, the choices were thin. Because I was/am an inveterate liner-notes-reader, I'd never heard of Jerry Williams, but I noticed all the well-known LA session players listed in the credits and so I snagged the record. Three years later I met my pal Johnny and during our first evening together told me the story you just read, and lamented that as immensely talented as Jerry was, no one knew either him or the album, and I cemented our friendship at that moment by walking over to my record stacks and casually asking, "You mean this record?" Blew his mind and maybe now yours...
    1. Superdad's Avatar
      Superdad -
      Terrific story, and well written. I hope Mr. Klein has a few more of Johnny's stories to tell!
    1. Gilbert Klein's Avatar
      Gilbert Klein -
      Quote Originally Posted by Superdad View Post
      Terrific story, and well written. I hope Mr. Klein has a few more of Johnny's stories to tell!
      Johnny laughs at this, knowing I know a lot of his stories, and some of them I can tell you here, but he laughs when he asks if I'm gonna name this the "My Pal Johnny Series." Nah, but I'll check in with him from time to time.
    1. James Bond's Avatar
      James Bond -
      Eddie Kramer on Zeppelins "A whole lotta love" used a reworked tape to record the vocal and discovered that the burned previous recording was still bleeding, and somehow precursed the "Waaay Doooown, woman you neeeed" vocals as they recorded, but sound haunting and fitting. This same effect I get from this. You gotta sit back and do what you do when tuning in to good tunes and enjoy. This is a good tune!! Bravo, Gilbert!! Bravo!!!
    1. eligeorgia's Avatar
      eligeorgia -
      This story is a wonderfully unexpected surprise. it feels like an outlier on this site, but I truly look forward to more stories from you Gilbert. I saw this reissue album cover in my Tidal New Releases section recently, and was struck by the album art, yet I moved on, unknowingly. It now has a "Favorites" star lit up next to it!

      Interestingly, the bio for Jerry on Tidal's website refers to the Swedish rock n roll singer that Paul referred to in his above comment! They can't even get it right! I'm sure there are lots of people who would say that the secret of Jerry Williams has already been out for a while, but clearly he never got the exposure he deserved.
    1. Gilbert Klein's Avatar
      Gilbert Klein -
      Y'know, that was an issue with me, too. I remember him as Jerry Lynn Williams, and that was the name when I met him. so I asked Johnny about it and he says, "Yes… it was Jerry Lynn after that first Warner Bros. album. There were two other guys named Jerry Williams… a Swedish rock ’n’ roll singer that recorded in the 60’s, 70’s & 80’s and was still going strong after 2000… and of course the great R&B singer that called himself Swamp Dogg. If you’re not familiar with him you should be. When Jerry got his publishing deal with Bill Ham (ZZ Top’s manager) they had to differentiate between him and the other guys."
    1. mrmb's Avatar
      mrmb -
      Very enjoyable read and a good ancillary addition to C/A! I passed the link along to several of my music/audio buddies. Thanks Chris and Gilbert, I'm looking forward to the future monthly "contributions".
    1. Gilbert Klein's Avatar
      Gilbert Klein -
      I really appreciate how you guys jump onto/into a track or artist, as I do. I was looking for something about Dave Mason and I found a great bio/history of Jerry Williams, so I put it here: The Lone Ranger: Lone Star songwriter of the spheres, Jerry Lynn Williams - Music - The Austin Chronicle
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Guys - Gilbert is back with another installment of The Music In Me - Computer Audiophile - The Music In Me: Really Quite Good, Maybe Great