Born Jerrell Lee Fuller, 19 November 1938, Fort Worth, Texas
Though Jerry Fuller recorded prolifically as a singer and had a few minor hits, he is more important as a songwriter and producer. He has been a BMI songwriter since 1957, wrote over 1,100 songs, many of which became major hits, including two number ones.
Encouraged by his musical parents, Fuller developed an interest in music at an early age. He made his first recordings for Joe Leonard’s Lin label in 1957-59, a mix of rock n roll, teenage pop and soft rock. Six singles were released (five of them were assembled on the only LP Lin ever issued), but Jerry was unable to build a following outside Texas. He moved to Los Angeles, hoping to find a place in the thriving South California music scene. Soon he was signed by Challenge Records, for which he would record a total of 23 singles (1959-1966). On his more rocking recordings, he was backed by various members of the Champs.
The first Challenge single, “Betty My Angel”, became his first chart entry, peaking at # 90. The second one, a rocking revival of the much-recorded “Tennessee Waltz”, did even better (# 63) and was also released in the UK (on London American) and other European countries. There was also chart success for “Shy Away” (# 71) on which he sounded very much like Bobby Vee and “Guilty Of Loving You” (# 94), both in 1961.
Dave Burgess of the Champs was Fuller’s publisher during his Challenge tenure and became a close friend. They wrote many songs together, including “Son-In-Law”, the only hit the Blossoms ever had under their own name (1961). Both Fuller and Burgess also befriended Glen Campbell, who was a member of the Champs for some time in 1960-61. This trio recorded for Challenge as both The Trophies and The Fleas in 1961. Rick(y) Nelson sang along with them, but his participation had to be kept secret, because Nelson was exclusively contracted to Imperial.
The association between Fuller and Nelson had a peculiar start. Jerry had written a song called “Travelin’ Man” with Sam Cooke in mind. He made a demo with Glen Campbell on guitar and took it to J.W. Alexander, Cooke’s manager. Alexander listened politely to the demo. thanked Fuller, and threw the tape away as soon as he had gone. But Nelson’s bass player, Joe Osborn, was in Lew Chudd’s adjacent office and heard the song through the wall. He went in and asked Alexander if he could hear that song again. Cooke’s manager pulled it out of the garbage and gave it to him. Unbeknownst to Fuller, Osborn submitted the song to Ricky Nelson, who recorded it, scoring a # 1 hit in the process. Nelson then asked Fuller if he had any other songs. He had plenty more and Nelson ended up recording 19 Jerry Fuller compositions, of which “A Wonder Like You”, “Young World” and “It’s Up To You” all went Top 10. From April 1961 onwards, Burgess, Campbell and Fuller also replaced The Jordanaires (who had become too busy doing sessions in their hometown of Nashville) as the vocal chorus on Ricky’s recordings. During his association with Nelson, Fuller served a two-year stint in the Army, but still found opportunities to write songs.
Fuller’s minor hit singles and the massive success of the Nelson songs would have been a nice pop legacy for any writer, but that was hardly the end of the road for him. While still at Challenge, he produced the Top 20 hit “Lies” for a group called The Knickerbockers (1965), who tried very hard to sound British. In 1967 Fuller emerged as a producer for Columbia, overseeing the career of Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. This group scored five Top 10 hits in 1967-69, including two # 2 smashes, “Young Girl” and “Lady Willpower” (both 1968). In that same year Fuller produced the first hits of singer O.C. Smith (who had previously recorded for Cadence and other labels as Ocie Smith) : “The Son of Hickory Holler’s Tramp” (# 40) and “Little Green Apples” (# 2). At Columbia, Jerry also produced Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams, Billy Joe Royal and others. He left Columbia in 1970 to start his own company, Moonchild Productions, Inc. and his own publishing firm, Fullness Music.
In the early 1970s Fuller teamed up with Al Wilson, until then a mildly successful soul singer, who scored a # 1 in January 1974 with “Show And Tell”, written and produced by Jerry Fuller.
Returning to his Texas roots, Fuller began to write songs for the country market and continued to thrive both as a songwriter and a producer, most notably with “Love Me” by Collin Raye (# 1 country, 1991).
Countless artists have recorded his songs. An overview of his achievements and awards can be found on his website : http://www.jerryfuller.com/stats_credits.php
Official website : http://www.jerryfuller.com/index.php
Discography / sessionography : http://countrydiscography.blogspot.nl/search/label/Fuller%20Jerry
Acknowledgements : Mark Marymont, Fred Bronson, Mick Patrick.
Dik, September 2015
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