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Jerry Shea was born July 17, 1934 in Osawatomie, Miami, Kansas to William Gerard Shea and Evelyn Maxine Carson Shea. He came from a musically inclined family. His maternal Great- Grandfather played the violin. Jerry's parents frequently performed with the Kansas City Orchestra. His father was a violinist and his mother was a cellist.


Jerry's parents divorced when he was very young. His father enlisted in the Naval Reserves during World War II when Jerry was age eight. Jerry never saw or heard from him again, even after many years of searching.

During this time Jerry lived with his Grandmother Carson. She had a beauty shop in her home, and was there for him after school. At one time he went to live with an Aunt and Uncle who had a son about his age. His Aunt and Uncle worked for the Missouri Pacific Railroad, as did his Grandfather Shea, who was an Engineer.

Jerry wanted to earn money, and started by delivering telegrams for the railroad office. He walked most of the time, and rode a bicycle for the distant deliveries. Jerry had a special uniform he wore proudly when he delivered the telegrams.

When Jerry's mother remarried he went to live with them. She had another son when Jerry was age ten. He left home when he was sixteen. An Uncle, with the help of the Red Cross found him in the military and brought him home.

Jerry was drawn to music and the steel guitar at an early age. He started playing with different bands when he was very young.

In 1951, Jerry married at the age of seventeen. He and his wife had two daughters, Lila and Virginia. He looked for work in Missouri and Kansas, and at one time worked with some of the musicians in the Benny Goodman Band when they were in that area. He had a hard time finding work and then getting paid. A few years later their marriage ended.

During the early part of 1954, in Ft. Smith, Jerry Shea as playing steel guitar with Jerry "Bud" Summerlin and the Cookson Hills Cowboys, along with Norman Whistler who played the fiddle. Jerry Summerlin was the guitarist and vocalist. Fred Jones, who played upright bass, was invited to join the band.

The band worked out of Anderson, Missouri, taking their music to Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. This included morning radio shows in Neosho, Missouri and later in Dumas, Texas. Sometime during this period, a lead guitarist, Kenneth Richardson, performed with the band. Jerry Shea and Norman Whistler got a job at Reda Pump Company, a factory in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. In the fall of 1954, Jerry Shea left the band and went to Houston, Texas.

Jerry arrived in Houston, Texas on a bus with his only possession, a four neck Fender steel guitar. He went to work for club owner, R.D. Hendon at 105 1/2 Main Street.


Jerry was always searching for new ideas and knowledge in music. He took steel guitar lessons in the home of a man he thought to be the finest steel player he had ever heard, Herb Remington. The two men Jerry had the greatest admiration for was Herb Remington and Harold Sharp. Many people thought Jerry and Harold were brothers, as they were so much alike in many ways.

In 1955, R.D. received an invitation for the band to perform in May at the Jimmy Rogers Memorial in Meridian, Mississippi, along with many other bands. The band traveled in a station wagon, pulling a trailer filled with band instruments and equipment. R.D. went everywhere the band traveled and did all the driving. He was very proud of the band and wanted everyone to know the 'Western Jamboree Cowboys' was his band.

The band made several records, but was never given individual credit on the label except as R.D. Hendon's 'Western Jamboree Cowboys'.

One cold, rainy Saturday night, R.D. Hendon sent a taxi to the homes of two young ladies that was not at the club due to the bad weather. If they would come to the club, they would be his guests, and have a safe trip home by taxi. He did request they wear western clothes, as he wanted everyone to know he had a 'Western Club'.

That night Jerry met both ladies and started dating one of them, Mary Sue Jones from Lewisville, Lafayette, Arkansas, and later married in 1955.

'Easy' Adams from San Antonio, Texas, owner of the 'Texas Top Hands' Band had heard of Jerry, and made the trip to the club to hear him play. 'Easy' was well known as a musician, vocalist, and songwriter of 'The Bandera Waltz'.

'Easy' offered Jerry a place in the band that was sponsored by Lone Star Brewery with a radio show. Jerry made the trip to San Antonio, and was a guest in the Adams home. He sat in with the band and was impressed with the members and style of their music. Jerry and Mary Sue moved to San Antonio. Their two children, Mary and Billy were born there.

The band members had a close relationship as musicians and as friends. The 'Texas Top Hands' performed only in Texas. They traveled in a large bus that was equipped for long trips.

Some of the band members moved on to other bands, and the 'Texas Top Hands' acquired new musicians who were an equal asset to the band.

Jerry wanted to travel less and be home more. After a long, hard decision, he left the 'Texas Top Hands' band. He had opportunites to go to Nashville, but declined. He thought it would be too demanding, and considered offers from local bands.

Jerry wanted to improve his playing skills and knowledge of music. He studied the styles and techniques of Joaquin Murphey and jazz guitarist Django Rinehart, and applied them in his music.

Many Sunday afternoons there would be jam sessions in his home, and other times held at places where food was served.

One of the bands Jerry performed with was Charlie Harris and the 'Silver Kings'. Charlie was a vocalist and guitarist that had played in many well known bands.

Jerry was in a backup band for musicians appearing at the Municipal Auditorium without a band. The M.C. for the show when Elvis Presley appeared was Charlie Walker, know disc jockey, musician and recording artist of 'Pick Me Up On Your Way Down'.

After the show, Elvis invited Jerry to his dressing room. He complemented Jerry on his style of playing, and hoped he would be in the band if he ever appeared there again. Jerry commented that Elvis was very much the entertainer on stage, and off stage he was a very easy down to Earth person to talk with, and very courteous and polite to everyone.

In the mornings, Jerry attended St. Mary's University and studied music. During the afternoons he taught guitar and steel guitar at Caldwell Music Company. In the Evenings, before going to work at night, he taught music in the studio in his home. He always encouraged his students to also write music, and taught those that were interested.

Jackie King, a teenage, left hand guitar player also taught some of his students in 'Jerry's Guitar Studio'. Jackie went on to become a well known professional guitarist.

Jerry wanted an upgraded guitar. He ordered a custom made steel guitar from Wright Custom Guitar Company in California. He sent in his own designs, a double neck with five pedals and how he wanted it modified. The guitar arrived by bus, and he was even more impressed with the workmanship than he expected. It was made from white birdseye Maple, hand rubbed to a finish. On the front his name was added, and there was a built in cigarette lighter and ashtray. He kept his picks and steel bar in the ashtray.

Jerry practiced on the guitar for hours over a period of several days before he would play it in public. Later on he added another pedal.

Many times Jerry was contacted when bands came to town without a steel player. He was always happy to help out. On one special occasion, he was contacted to perform with Hank Thompson and band along with Roger Miller. The place was packed, and people just stood around the bandstand watching and listening. Jerry really enjoyed working with such accomplished artists.

In 1963, Jerry's Great-Grandfather's violin was handed down to him in very good shape. Jerry wanted to learn to play the violin, and in his spare time he would practice on it, which he really enjoyed.

Jerry worked many times with Leon Payne, a guitarist, vocalist and song writer. The most popular song was, 'I Love You Because'. Due to Leon not being able to see, Jerry would sometimes take him to where they were appearing, and someone else would take him home. Jerry was on a demo record with Leon. On one side was 'Reflex Reaction', an instrumental.

They were the only two musicians who would agree to take music to the burn ward in the Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston. On each occasion they had to wear masks. With Leon on guitar and Jerry using a lap steel guitar, they would spend the afternoon going through the ward so every patient could listen to the music and songs. Jerry remarked how heart breaking it was to see people in such helpless and life threating conditions. He felt it was very rewarding to him to be able to do this for them.

Jerry worked at the N.C.O. Club at Lackland for two different bands. Sargent Billy Deaton was there on certain nights, and Jerry played the steel guitar in his band. He was glad he had the opportunity to work with him. Jerry thought him to be a very good natured person, easy to work for and with abilities to go places. Billy was a disc jockey, song writer, recording artist, talent agent, and Faron Young's manager for many years.

Jerry enjoyed having the privilege of working with Slim Roberts and his band, 'Men of the West'. Slim Roberts was a well know vocalist and recording artist of 'Touch My Hand', which was on the jukeboxes throughout the Southwest.

Jerry's health began to give him some problems and was under a doctor's care. In 1964, he moved his family back to Houston, Texas to be near Mary Sue's parents and relatives.

For a while Jerry worked at Automatic Power. He was sometimes sent offshore by helicopter to troubleshoot a problem. He submitted ideas to the company, for which he was compensated.

Jerry's hands had begun to give him problems, and he became more selective in where he performed. He enjoyed playing dinner music for large country clubs, and private parties. Jerry performed with Duane Dutoit and 'The Surfriders', at large hotel clubs, Hawaiian louas, dinner clubs and private clubs.

During this time Jerry worked with other bands on special occassions. He was also on another record. He played the steel guitar on Link Davis' album, 'Cajun Crawdaddy'.

In 1971, Jerry and Mary Sue ended their marriage. He later moved to Lubbock, Texas and was employed by Texas Instruments. He was the youth counselor at the church he attended, and gave speaking engagements quite often. Jerry's health had become worse, and on August 26, 1974 he had a severe heart attack resulting in his death.

The things that had belonged to Jerry was lost or destroyed by the waters of hurricane Alicia in 1983. All of Jerry's children would like to hear from anyone who would care to share information about their father. They would welcome anyone's help in locating copies of the records mentioned, and copies of any pictures.

They can be contacted at:

Updated May 20, 2008

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