Jerry Cole: The Neil Young of L.A. Session Players

How funny it struck me the moment I discovered that the guitarist known for cranking out low-down and dirty hot rod, surf & twang instrumentals for beloved budget label, Crown, is the same highly-sought after session musician who did considerably more polished work for such A-list talent as The Byrds (“Tambourine Man”), Nancy Sinatra (“These Boots Are Made for Walkin'”), The Beach Boys (“California Girls” & “Sloop John B”), Paul Revere & the Raiders (“Kicks”), The Dixie Cups (“Chapel of Love”), and The Ronettes (“Be My Baby”), among many others.  That’s Jerry, by the way, on Pet Sounds’ opening track, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” playing a detuned 12-string guitar run directly into the console with added live reverb – as opposed to what many assume to be a harp – kicking off the song.

Guitars a Go Go LPCompare any of the above-named tracks with this rough-around-the-edges instrumental – “Mustang” – from 1965 Crown classic, Guitars a Go Go, by Jerry Cole & the Stingers:

A one-time member of The Champs (along with Glen Campbell and Seals & Crofts), Cole released a handful of instrumentals on Capitol (with and without his Spacemen) between the years 1963-1965.  This 2008 article from The Independent points out that Jerry Cole’s work as a studio guitarist included residencies in a number of television series, including Shindig!, Hullabaloo, Laugh-In, and The Sonny & Cher Show, while Cole’s profile on the Rockabilly Hall of Fame website gives the distinct impression that Jerry has worked with just about everybody in the music business.

UNESCO World Heritage Album Cover

Jerry Cole Psychedelic LP

Jerry Cole:  A Colleague’s Remembrance

Steel guitarist, Jerry Hayes, paid tribute to Jerry Cole on the Steel Guitar Forum in 2003:

“I just had a great phone conversation with an old pickin’ bud from SoCal named Jerry Cole. We played for a while together at Bonnie Price’s Foothill Club and also did some casuals together over the years. I hadn’t talked to Jerry for almost 18 years. It was great catching up with what’s been going on with him. JC has just been inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and is currently the conductor/Guitarist for Nancy Sinatra in her shows. Jerry was a part of the Los Angeles Country Music Scene for many years but was also a very accomplished sight reader which gave him an edge in getting other types of work. If you remember watching the Sonny & Cher TV shows and later the Cher Show when they’d pan the band in the back you’d see Jerry with that little Stratocaster. He had a custom built Strat which was 3/4 size and just looked like a little shrunken black strat. He was the one who turned me on to slide guitar and some cool jazz voicings on guitar. On top of all the guitar talent was the fact that JC was a front line vocalist. I used to love playing those Roy Orbison tunes on Pedal Steel behind him. That stuff really lends itself to steel guitar. For those who never knew Jerry, he was only around 5’1″ or 5’2″ tall. I’m 6’4″ tall and we’d have fun doing those two guys on one guitar things like Joe Maphis and Larry Collins used to do. The crowd would go nuts. I’d walk up behind him and we had it worked out where I’d play strings 4, 5, & 6 near the nut and bridge and he’d move his hands in closer and play strings 1, 2, & 3. Anyway, I was happy to be back in touch with him after all these years and just wanted to share a little about the guy. One small dude in size but a monster and giant when it came to the guitar……JH”

Jerry Cole