South Dakota whose early exposure to music included polka parties, and
something about the beat must have captured his imagination, because his
dad and mom bought him a starter kit, and he was so excited, he leapt off
of his bed and promptly shattered the bass drum.
Perhaps it was
a portent of things to come, because there was certainly a lot of banging
and crashing in his first band, which ran the gamut from Motown to The Dave
Clark Five. His style of music did
not exactly make him suitable for the high-school pep band, and after a
very short tenure, he was unceremoniously dispatched.
It was not
exactly heartbreaking to the fledgling drummer, as he was much more
interested in sports. In fact,
he might have been the star player on the school basketball team if not for
a local piano player who needed a drummer for a cocktail-style night-club
act. It wasn’t exactly
the DC5, but it was steady money, and while his peers were working odd
jobs, Jerry was already on the way to becoming a full-time, professional
graduating, he band-hopped to Myron Lee & The Caddies, a cover band
with a minor hit to their credit and a resume that included opening for
Buddy Holly and Bobby Vee. It was during a gig in Sioux Falls
that he became acquainted with bassist Eddy Rager,
an acquaintanceship that would turn out to have a profound effect on
In 1967, he
band-hopped again, this time to Danny & The Velaires,
a Sioux City outfit that had had modest success with a pair of records
eight years earlier. By now,
however, they were a touring band that played all over the United States,
including gigs in Phoenix, Arizona and Oahu, Hawaii, where they enjoyed one
run that lasted an entire summer.
It was a good, steady gig that was interrupted by a phone call in
Eddy Rager rang up Jerry and told him that there was a job
that was his for the taking in Nashville, Tennessee. Charlie Louvin,
one half of The Louvin Brothers, was in need of a
drummer. The only problem was
it would mean a pay cut of $50 a week.
Eddy offered to put him up until he could get his own apartment,
though, and it was Nashville, after all.
Jerry took the
opportunity, thinking it could lead to bigger things, and made the great
egress to the nation’s music capital. What an unpleasant surprise it was,
then, to see his paycheck shrink to $100 just three weeks in. Eddy had neglected to mention that
Charlie paid his musicians based on a “floating” pay
scale. Charlie didn’t pay
by the week: He paid by the
gig. This was not the sort of
steady work Jerry was looking for.
Eventually, he got to play at the Grand Ole Opry,
but that only paid $12.50 per week.
The stars in Jerry’s eyes faded to black. He had gone from making $200 a week
as a touring musician to making peanuts on the grandest of all country
he moved back to the Midwest, reunited with Danny & The Velaires, married his girlfriend, and bought a
house. He and his wife Marlys, who was a singer in her own right, were now
both working full-time in the band, and making good money. Life was good.
Then, the band
newlyweds were out of a job, and living in a brand new house, to boot. Jerry saw himself thirty years down
the road, still band-hopping, middle-aged, and playing drums in a bar.
In 1971, the Kroons packed up their things and moved to
Nashville. As luck would have
it, the apartment complex they moved into also housed Motown drummer, Larrie Londin. He would wind up playing a key role
in getting Jerry on the road to a recording career.
meantime, Jerry haunted a local music club called the Demon’s Den,
and eventually wound up sitting in with the house band. It wasn’t exactly the Ryman,
but it did lead to a job with Nat Stuckey. This lasted a few months and then
Jerry was wooed by Jim Vest to join another house band, this time at a club
run by Hugh X. Lewis, who had written a #1 hit for Stonewall Jackson. The work was steady, and paid a
nifty $125 per week.
were on the horizon, however.
The aforementioned Londin phoned Jerry out
of the blue and tipped him off to an opening in Ray Stevens’
band. Jerry aced the audition,
and suddenly found himself making about the same money in one day that he
had been making in one week.
Jerry spent the next five years touring with Ray. He also appeared on Ray’s
cover of “Misty”, which went to #3 in 1975. The touring schedule was fairly
light, about eighty days out of the year, and it allowed Jerry to test the
waters in the recording studio with other artists, such as Guy Clark and
Again, Larrie Londin proved pivotal
in Jerry’s budding career by recommending him to Mel Tillis. The
result was “I Believe in You”, which turned out to be the first
#1 record featuring Jerry on drums.
It topped in the charts on 8th July 1978.
In 1979, Jerry
decided to quit the road and concentrate on being a full-time session
drummer. It turned out to be a
very good move. In 1980, his
career exploded. He appeared
Terri Gibbs’ top-ten hit, “Somebody’s Knockin’”
and Merle Haggard’s “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and
Drink”. The Academy of
Country Music nominated him in the category of Best Drums in 1981 and 1983.
In 1983, he played
drums on Vern Gosdin’s top-five hit,
“If You’re Gonna Do Me
Wrong”. By this time,
Jerry was doing everything right.
and groups with whom he has recorded read like a line-up of Nashville
All-Stars: Alabama, Bobby Bare,
Roy Clark, Lacy J. Dalton, Freddy Fender, Lee Greenwood, George Jones,
Sammy Kershaw, Reba McEntire, John Michael
Montgomery, The Oak Ridge Boys, Mark O’Connor, Johnny Rodriguez,
Ricky Skaggs, Gene Watson, and Keith Whitley.
He has also
been very active with gospel greats, Bill & Gloria Gaither, appearing
on at least four of their albums:
Good News, Harmony in the Heartland, I’ll Meet You on the Mountain,
and Mountain Homecoming. In addition, he worked in the music
production department on their television specials, Gaither Gospel Hour:
Because He Lives and Gaither
Gospel Hour: Mountain
years, he has battled through prostate cancer and, to a lesser extent,
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, but has remained busy in the studio and on the
road, particularly as a member of Don McLean’s band. They performed together as recently
as 24th February 2009, in concert with The Augusta Symphony
Pops, in Augusta, Georgia.
For a sampling
of Jerry’s handiwork, check out The
Essential Earl Scruggs, The Piano
Magic of Floyd Cramer, and the George Strait box set, Strait out of the Box.
Hargus "Pig" Robbins recordings
Elektra (E-46512-A) (US promo 45)
Ricky Skaggs recordings
Heartbroke (Guy Clark)