TUSCUMBIA — Local musicians who remember working with Jerry Carrigan said he was one of THE top sessions drummers in Nashville, Tennessee, who had impeccable timing.
Close friend and contemporary Norbert Putnam said Carrigan, 75, died early last week of an unknown illness. He said the drummer had become reclusive in his later years and was living in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Carrigan was a member of the late Rick Hall's first rhythm section, the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, and played on Hall's first big hit out of FAME Recording Studios, Arthur Alexander's "You Better Move On" and later on Jimmy Hughes' "Steal Away."
"He was the first drummer here," Rodney Hall said. "He was 13 or 14 years old. His dad had to drive him to the sessions and set up his drum kit. The first six years of hits that came out of Muscle Shoals, he was on them."
After getting his start in Muscle Shoals, Carrigan moved to Nashville, where he became one of the top drummers there.
"He had excellent timing, and if someone on the session would get ahead or behind, he'd jump all over you," guitarist Larry Byrom said. "If you couldn't play on exact time, he would jump all over people. He would sort of run the show."
Byrom said he worked with Carrigan in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Carrigan was one of the young musicians who hung around at the old City Drug Store in the late 1950s and early 1960s when the area's music scene was in its embryonic period. Like many of those musicians, he ended up with Rick Hall at FAME, then moved to Nashville.
He worked with a wide variety of artists. His drum work can be heard on Charlie Rich's classic "Behind Closed Doors," "Jerry Lee Lewis's "Middle Aged Crazy," "When You're Hot, You're Hot" by Jerry Reed, "The Gambler" by Kenny Rogers," Tony Joe White's "Polk Salad Annie," "He Stopped Loving Her Today" by George Jones, and many more.
"We are saddened to hear about Jerry’s death," Alabama Music Hall of Fame board member Judy Hood said. "He was one of Alabama’s great music achievers, and we are proud that he is an Alabama Music Hall of Fame inductee."
Carrigan was inducted into the hall of fame in 2010, the last year the banquet was held in Montgomery.
Earl "Peanutt" Montgomery said he knew Carrigan since he was about 12 years old. He used to eat dinner at his house near Royal Avenue in Florence. His father used to book gigs for the band together, and Montgomery played with Carrigan in that original FAME rhythm section.
"I worked with him all the time when we were at FAME," Montgomery said. "Before that, I played in a band with him when we played at Ole Miss, Tuscaloosa and Auburn in the late 1950s and early '60s."
"He sounded real," Montgomery said of Carrigan's drumming. "He didn't sound like those machines they play with today. He could create so much."
Montgomery said Carrigan played on hits by George Jones and Tammy Wynette and FAME Studios recordings of Tommy Roe, The Tams, Joe Tex and Sonny James.
Putnam said he played with Carrigan numerous times.
"He was a great musician," Putnam said. "This is the guy who played with the Boston Pops when Chet (Atkins) took him up there. Jerry and I were in a big band section with Al Hirt and Henry Mancini. Jerry was also one of the top country drummers in Nashville."
He said Carrigan played on about 120 tracks by the King of Rock 'N' Roll, Elvis Presley, and later toured with John Denver.
Singer/songwriter Jerry McGee said he met Carrigan in the mid 1960s.
He said Carrigan played in his Juke Box band that featured other accomplished Shoals musicians.
"His timing was impeccable," McGee said. "His touch was, too. Jerry was an amazing talent. He was like a metronome."
Carrigan was also fun to be around, he said. He told great stories about his time in the music business.
Putnam said Carrigan's funeral arrangements are pending.