Jerry Clower (1995)
Country’s comic finds happiness at home.
Originally published in the May 23, 1995 issue of Country Weekly featuring Dolly Parton on the cover. This story is presented here in its entirety.
“I live a mile from where I was born, a mile from where I was saved, a mile from where I was baptized,” Jerry Clower explains. “I live a mile from where I was married—and I live a mile from where I’m going to be buried.”
Welcome to Jerry Clower’s world near Liberty, Miss. Life seems simple here even simpler when explained by Clower, who soon will record his 29th comedy album for MCA Records. Three of those albums containing his trademark tall tales have gone gold, and another’s on the same shiny path, making him the largest-selling country humorist in history. Clower’s successful show business career also includes Grand Ole Opry membership, four books, two home videos and a highly successful fishing lure infomercial. He soon will make his screen debut playing Ray Stevens’ manager in the movie Let’s Get Serious.
But when he comes in off the road from one of his 200 or so performances a year, there’s nothing like the tiny town of Liberty, where he always finds home, family and friends. “I make a pretty good living describing things,” Jerry told COUNTRY WEEKLY, “but it’s indescribable to have the feeling of coming back home to a lady you’ve been happily married to for 48 years.” Jerry met Homerline when he was 16 and she was 14. Neither has ever dated another person. Driving into Liberty, old memories come alive as he passes the dilapidated house he was raised in and the church he was saved in. The area’s most famous resident—a sign on the road from McComb to Liberty proclaims, “Welcome to Amite County, birthplace and homeplace of Jerry Clower” he yearns to become just one of the good ol’ boys every day he’s in his hometown.
Count on Clower to head to the town square and the side room at the Liberty Drug Store for some serious debriefing with his friends every afternoon. “It’s the greatest therapy I have,” he says. At 15 cents per cup of coffee, it’s also the cheapest. “There’s a man sitting over there who survived the Corregidor Death March. A man over here was on an aircraft carrier. That man was in the Marine Corps, and the one next to him used to run a big plant, and that one there is a retired insurance executive. We all just sit and talk.” Their tales and their humor are much of the stuff of Clower’s hot-selling albums. Like the day they all grew silent as a funeral procession passed by the drugstore. “Who died?” asked one man. “The one in the first car,” answered another.
Clower moved from Yazoo City, Miss., to Liberty in 1988 after his oldest child Katie graduated from high school. Located in a beautiful 300-acre rural area framed by sky-scraping pine trees, the Clower house contains five bedrooms, an often-used front porch, brick-lined patio and a comfy den that invites relaxation. The picture windows of the den, kitchen and dining room overlook the backyard forest, offering views of roaming deer, armadillos, bobcats and birds of various feathers. “The other morning while we were eating breakfast we saw a mama bobcat with her two little baby kittens.”
Why five bedrooms for a manse that houses Jerry and his wife Homerline? “She wanted it so when our kids come to see us, each one would have their own place to stay,” Jerry explains. The home vibrates with family values and fun, especially during Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday visits from all four children and seven grandkids. The children are always around, in some fashion, either in person or in prized displays. A den cabinet displays Katy’s collection of Madame Alexander limited edition dolls that have been her annual Christmas presents since her first birthday.
Katy is now 24 and engaged to be married at Mississippi State University, where Jerry once played football. Also in the den are a big-screen TV and a bookcase topped by a Charles Dickens miniature city—horses, carriages, a Christmas tree store, houses and a church. Jerry notes one more important person. “Our maid, Arletha Hogue, is a member of our family,” he says. “She’s a class person who moved down here with us from Yazoo City.”
Pointing to the bedroom with its four-poster bed, Jerry advises, “This is where me and Homerline live.” On the bedside table is The Book of Virtues by William J. Bennett. Just past the bathroom and walk-in closet is the sewing and exercise room containing a workout bike, trampoline and sewing machine. Jerry confesses a typical day finds more sewing than sweating. The four-car garage holds two cars, Jerry’s pickup truck and a fishing boat.
The Jerry Clower Private Museum is 100 feet away from the residence. When he started touring in 1970, Jerry threw away awards, plaques and memorabilia he was given before Homerline started collecting it for him. After the move to Liberty, she suggested he construct a separate building to house his bounties. Tourists now visit the eclectic collection of stuffed coons (many of Jerry’s stories are about coon hunting), letters from presidents, photos with show business stars and athletes, gold records, footballs and jerseys, belt buckles and pins, trash and treasure. Trips to the museum must be arranged in advance by calling Jerry’s secretary Joanie at (601) 684-8130.
If Jerry’s home, he personally greets visitors to his castle of artifacts. Religious to the core (he tithes both time and money), Clower confides that one of his favorite days of the month is when he and Homerline take a covered dish down to the Fellowship Hall. “I’d rather go down there and take the lids off of them dishes and dip up that chicken pie and fellowship with them folks than to drink tea with the Queen of England.” Jerry works with many country music superstars in concerts and it often grieves him when they discuss returning home. “Some of them tell me, ‘I’m going home and I dread it.’ It breaks my heart because when they ask me where I’m going, I just tell them the truth—‘I’m going home, and, hallelujah, ain’t I glad I’m going home!
“Everybody ought to be happy to go home—and I am the happiest person in the world to come home.”