The South’s true heroesBy BY MARK H. STOWERS COLUMNIST,
Good Mornin’! Good Mornin’!
There were a lot of things I learned growing up. Justin Wilson could cook, Paul Ott could fish, hunt and sing and Jerry Clower’s address was Route 4, Liberty, Mississippi. These entertaining men took ahold of my young mind with their talents and comedic timing and never let me go.
Wilson taught me what a Cajun truly is, Ott was all about conservation and Clower – well he gave the valuable instruction on coon huntin’ and many other topics. And since I’ve lived in five different states with plenty of different zip codes the past few decades, I’ve learned that their influence reached far beyond where folks have a drawl and have recipes for cooking a raccoon. I never got to meet any of them individually though I did get to interview Ott once or twice before he passed last summer.
I couldn’t imagine if Wilson and Clower were around today and I could get them on a cell phone what they’d come up with for me.
Ott did have plenty to say about his buddy from Route 4, Liberty, Mississippi when we chatted.
“We grew up one county apart and he was selling fertilizer and talking to the same Rotary Clubs where I was singing. We started performing together but he took off a lot faster than I did because he wasn’t singing. He was a comedian and he was real good.” Ott said he went on to pick up some of Clower’s stories to add to his act along with his music and patriotism theme. I did get to talk to Clower’s daughter, Katy Clower Johnson, a while back though. I really wanted to learn more about this entertaining, southern Icon of a man. The first thing I asked was what was he really like as I only knew the entertainer.
“The way daddy was is the way daddy was 24/7/365,” his youngest daughter said. “He walked the walk and he talked the talk. He was a good dad and a fabulous Christian man and a great entertainer. What you saw was what you got. He had a big heart and a giving spirit.”
She was most proud of his Christian faith and witness and how it “oozed out in everything he did. There was a cut on every single one of his albums that was something about his faith. He was willing to share his faith in Jesus Christ with anyone – and he did.”
He went on to join the Grand Ole Opry and travel the world giving folks a glimpse into Amite County and his world there. And he found the secret to success backstage at the Opry.
“Ernest Tubb told him to never forget what brought you to where you are now. And that’s why daddy always closed every single one of his shows with ‘The Coon Hunt’ which was his original story that made him famous and that he had the most requests for.”
Clower was a Gideon and Lay Speaker in addition to his fertilizer selling and storytelling and has a Highway Marker dedicated in his honor. According to Katy, her daddy ended every show with these words.
“I am convinced that there’s just one place of where there ain’t no laughter and that’s in Hell. And I have made arrangements to miss Hell so I don’t ever have to be where some folks aren’t laughing,” she said.
I’m sure they are…and then some.