Jerry talks to B&S about his reunion with Gamble and Huff and his plans for the future…
GRAMATICALLY, it may not be correct but the simple truth is that Jerry Butler is reunited with the two gentlemen who have given him the greatest successes of his long career — Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff.
Whereas the trio's original successes were enjoyed on the Mercury label — based in Jerry's actual home city of Chicago — Jerry has now been signed to the Philadelphia International label and the first proof of the pudding is already carrying the Ice Man up the charts at an alarming speed. That's the single, "I'm Just Thinking About Cooling Out", a new song that Kenny, Leon and Jerry collaborated on and that is the pioneer track from Jerry's forthcoming Philadelphia International debut album. "Nothing Says I Love You Like I Love You".
"I am so excited about being back with Gamble and Huff," Jerry enthused from his office overlooking Chicago's Michigan Avenue. "The whole thing was really a matter of timing because I became available at a time when they were looking to expand their roster. Of course, we have always stayed in touch pretty closely and it is no secret that, in my opinion, they have captured Jerry Butler better than anybody else."
The album itself was cut in Philly and when you ask Jerry to select the tracks he considers to be the strongest, it's like asking an unanswerable question!
"Obviously, "Cooling Out" is one of the strongest," he says pensively. "Then there is another one called "Mighty Good People" and I think you'll like the title track, too. Oh, and there's "Dream World". In fact, just about every one of the eight sounds like a hit to me!"
Jerry's availability came via his departure from Motown and it is still a mystery to me (and probably Jerry and Motown, too) just why that musical marriage didn't enjoy more success.
"I guess I just didn't fit in with the Sound of Young America," Jerry can afford to smile now. "But, seriously, I don't think they ever quite understood who I was or what I was. There I was, a guy who had been in the business for something like twenty years and they really didn't listen to my ideas. So, that's why I feel that they never made the best of having me there. And the contract was such a steep one that we felt it best to agree to disagree and cut our losses.
"Yes, I am very disappointed that it didn't work because I really felt it was the best move I could have ever made — at the time! I was proud to be associated with what I considered to be a Black institution. Still, there was no bad feeling when I left and that is important."
As any long term followers of B&S will already know from prior features on Jerry, he is ever involved in various other business activities that fringe on the record industry. Right now, for example, he is involved in the growth of Heaven & Earth, a four man vocal group who are doing the business for themselves with their debut album on Mercury.
"I am actually involved in promoting two young songwriters, Rodney Massey and Lawrence Hanks — he's the brother of the LTD guy," Jerry explains. "Before we became involved with the group, Clarence Johnson had already set the record deal and we have kind of taken it from there. Because the Ice Man Music deal with Chappell is over, we started a new publishing company called Jahmilla Music — it's Swahili for beautiful, by the way."
Further good news for Ice Man fans — he was dubbed the Ice Man for his cool appearance on stage — is that he is about to start a nationwide tour to promote the Philly Int, album.
"It'll be the first time I've been out there since '73 or '74…back in the Mercury days. I can remember days when we'd leave for sixty days at a time and in a bus! Today, you work weekends and relax in the week. We used to do a different town every night and I'll tell you the truth, I enjoyed doing it at the time. Now I wouldn't do it that way today but the experience was invaluable to me.
"A lot of today's performers could use some of that experience, believe me! It was like a school because you'd end up following four or five other acts and everybody was out to outshine everybody else."
So, Jerry Butler fans will wear a smile for months to come — a definite monster hit single and a surefire Gold album.