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Jerry Braswell left country music career for slower pace in west Georgia
by Tom Spigolon
May 09, 2012 01:07 PM | 3520 views | 0 0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Staff / Lindsay Fendt
Jerry Braswell sits in his home in Hiram with his guitar
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Jerry Braswell visited every state and six countries during three decades working with country music’s biggest stars. But he didn’t look back when he returned home to west Georgia in 1988.

“I have no regrets,” said Braswell, a Douglas County High School graduate who performed and served as front man for a series of country music legends and Grand Ole Opry stars.

After years of living on a tour bus traveling the country, he returned to his hometown, Lithia Springs, and settled into semi-retirement.

Now, he is part of the entertainer’s unit with the Sweetwater Shrine Club and serves as a member of the Major Dawgs house band in the monthly Outpost Opry variety show in Dallas and the Georgia Mountain Fair’s staff band in Hiawassee.

Braswell, 65, is an Atlanta native who grew up in Lithia Springs and graduated from Douglas County High in 1965. He got his start in country music while only a teen — using a special work permit to perform in the Atlanta nightclub The Playroom, a country music venue operated by Atlanta legend Mama Wynette.

“That was one of the ways I got connections [to the industry],” he said.

He moved to Nashville, Tenn., in 1967 to work with Atlanta singer David Rogers after Rogers signed with Columbia Records. Braswell played in Rogers’ band and played on 10 albums with the singer of the early 1970s country hit “Need You.”

Braswell recalled he and his contemporaries were on a “quest” to make their marks in the country music industry.

“We were there to make a difference,” he said.

In contrast to the formal auditioning process of today, established musicians during the ’60s and ’70s generally worked a weekend of shows with them to gauge their suitability as a backup musician, Braswell said.

“It was a closer-knit industry at that time,” he recalled. “People cared for one another. If somebody was sick, somebody was there to help them.”

He performed regularly at the Grand Ole Opry, and was there in 1974 when it moved from the Ryman Auditorium to the new Opry House.

Along the way, he worked in the bands of Del Reeves and Jim Ed Brown, with whom he performed during Brown’s late 1970s heyday with Helen Cornelius and the TV show “Nashville On The Road.”

Braswell also recalled his years working with the late country legend Porter Wagoner, whose syndicated TV show was a staple on Southern TV stations for 20 years.

“He taught me a lot about the music industry,” Braswell said. “He was close to a genius in the studio.”

After two failed marriages, though, Braswell moved back to Lithia Springs in 1988 and married the former Gloria Ray, whom he met in the eighth grade, in 1990. He was inducted into the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame in 2003.

Now, Braswell stays in contact with friends from the music industry through modern means not foreseen when he began in country music.

“Facebook has been very instrumental in me keeping up with them,” he said.

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