My Grand Dad Jerry Reed!
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My Grand Dad Jerry Reed!
Granddad Jerry Reed
My first generation cousin, Willie and I, had a conversation about the musical legacy of our Reed/Perry and related families. Well that leads me to our Granddad Jerry Reed.
When I was a little boy, Grandma Mary Reed, used to brag about Grandad Jerry being a “one man band”. She said that when they lived in Mississippi, that Granddad Jerry would perform at all white parties, circa 1930s. Granddad Jerry was very dark skinned, and she would joke that, among all those white people, he looked like “a fly in buttermilk!”Lol!
Granddad Jerry was called a “one man band”, because he would play a “foot drum”, his guitar, and a harmonica on a holder strapped around his neck at the same time. I think he played country music and probably some country blues. But if he was playing to all white audiences, in Mississippi during that time, the 1930’s and 40’s, during the “Jim Crow” era. He was probably playing country music. I think Grandma Mary told me he did, but I’m not sure.
It had to be hard being a black man, during that time. Where you were called “boy” and if you stood up for yourself, white “night riders” wearing hoods, would show up at your house in the middle of the night, whip you, beat you or maybe even hang you.
I’m pointing this out, because, grandma Mary said that sometimes granddad Jerry would be gone for two or three days, performing at these parties, and when he’d return home, he would be drunk, shooting his gun up in the air, at trees and other things, around the field where their house was. I think he was letting out his frustration and anger at the humiliation, he and other black men had to endure on a daily basis during those terrible time! Grandma Mary said she would take the kids and run out into the woods, sometimes for a day or two, until Granddad Jerry would come back to his “senses”.
Otha, their oldest child and son, had migrated to Ecorse MI and lived on 12th St. He was a business man, he owned an “ice store” where he sold blocks of ice, to people who still used “Ice Boxes”, to store their food, before refrigerators became more affordable and prevalent. I think Otha owned an additional business as well, but I don’t remember what it was.
Grandma Mary and Granddad Jerry had relationship issues, some probably as a result of Granddad Jerry’s frustrations about being a black man in Mississippi during the Jim Crow period.
Uncle Otha, knowing about their situation, wrote Grandma Mary and told her, “she didn’t have to keep putting up with “poppa’s ’stuff. She could move to Michigan and live with him. So that’s what she did. She brought the kids who were still living at home with her, to live with Otha in Ecorse Michigan. I think the kids were, my Aunts Louise, Bertha, Theresa and Essie. I’m not sure my Uncle Alvin was with them or not.
Uncle Otha contracted tuberculosis and died, and Grandma Mary and the kids were stuck, in Michigan with no source of income and ending up on ADC/Welfare. I’m adding this detail, to show how that portion of the Reed family, ended up in Michigan.
Back to Granddad Jerry.
I meet granddad Jerry one time during my life, when I was about fourteen or fifteen years old. My mom (Dorothy), me my brothers James, Jody (George) and sister Shirley, were living on the Westside of Detroit on 24th st near West Grand Blvd and Michigan Ave.
Granddad Jerry stayed with us for about a week.
He was kind of tall, slim dark- skin man. I use to take him to the neighborhood barber shop to get his hair cut. I was excited to meet him.
My father, George Veasey Jr, had taught me five Mississippi instrumental blues songs, when I was about ten or eleven years old. I was a budding guitarist. So after hearing all those stories about Granddad Jerry being, a “one man band”. I wanted to hear Grandad Jerry play the guitar.
When I asked him to play something for me. He said “My ole fingers are kind of stiff but I’ll try to play something for you”. So he took my guitar, laid the back of it across the top of his thighs, took a pocket knife out of his pocket, and proceeded to play some really nice “slide guitar”, sliding the back of the knife across the strings, while strumming them with his right hand. I was thrilled!
That was the first and only time I ever saw Granddad Jerry! He went back to Mississippi and died. I don’t know if he had some health problem and knew that he was dying or not, and that’s why he made the trip, see he kids and grandkids before he died. My Granddad on the Veasey side of the family, “George Veasey Sr” (my father’s father) visited us during that same year and returned to Mississippi and died.That was the first and last time I ever met him as well.
So yes there is a long line of talent, running, through the various branches of the family.
I’m a guitarist, bassist, songwriter, lyricist and somewhat of a singer. I’m also a founding member of “Black Merda” a band many people consider to the first all-black rock band! I consider that to be an honor! And Much Appreciated!
So there you have it! Hope you enjoyed it! Thanks for checking it out!
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