Jerry Carrigan, one of Nashville’s most-recorded drummers, remembers his major country music sessions and his time in the primary rhythm section at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, during this interview at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, held February 21, 2009, as part of the Nashville Cats series.
Born in 1943 in Florence, Alabama, Carrigan played drums from a young age, first recording in Nashville at age thirteen before forming bands in high school. He grew up listening to 1950s R&B, including Fats Domino, Smiley Lewis, Little Richard, and Larry Williams. Carrigan says that he was also a fan of country songs—he cites Hank Garland’s instrumental “Sugarfoot Rag” as a vinyl 45-rpm that he “wore out.” As a drummer, his influences included Buddy Harman (“He was on about everything I listened to,” Carrigan says) and New Orleans great Earl Palmer.
Carrigan’s reputation achieved national recognition as part of the well-regarded Muscle Shoals rhythm section, which included bassist Norbert Putnam and keyboardist David Briggs. They formed the first of the important session groups in Muscle Shoals, working at FAME Studios. Carrigan played on many hit R&B, pop, and rock sessions before he relocated to Nashville. The program includes audio examples of Carrigan’s early work, including recordings by Arthur Alexander, Jimmy Hughes, and Tommy Roe.
In Nashville, Jerry Carrigan became a first-call session drummer and one of country music’s most prolific and important session players from the 1960s to the 1990s. In addition to his work with Elvis Presley in the early 1970s, Carrigan’s drumming can be heard on such classic hits as Waylon Jennings’s “Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line,” George Jones’s “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Middle Aged Crazy,” Jerry Reed’s “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot,” Charlie Rich’s “Behind Closed Doors,” Kenny Rogers’s “The Gambler,” and Tony Joe White’s “Polk Salad Annie.”
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