In 1970 Gerry and Bobbi’s second son, Jethro, was born. Young Jethro and his older brother Jason were immortalised in Gerry’s song ‘Jonas and the whale’, recorded on Gerry’s 976 LP ‘Rags to Gladrags’.
In the early 1970s, Gerry’s career took a further turn when he started being managed by Nigel Thomas, who also represented Joe Cocker, The Grease Band, Rod Stewart and The Faces, Chris Stainton and Juicy Lucy.
During 1972 and 1973 Gerry toured the US, Canada and Europe as part of huge package tours featuring these artistes. After years of performing at the small clubs and pubs of the folk and blues circuit, Gerry was suddenly playing an opening set in front of crowds of tens of thousands of people.
The US and Canadian tour headlined by Joe Cocker lasted three months and involved 40 concerts at venues, including Madison Square Gardens in New York and The Forum in Los Angeles. This was followed by a two month European tour through France, Holland, Italy, Germany and England.
Being under the same management as Joe Cocker, The Grease Band, Rod Stewart and The Faces also resulted in Gerry recording two LPs, featuring a stellar cast of accompanying musicians. These included: Ronnie Wood, Mick Ralphs, Henry McCulloch, Neil Hubbard, Alan Spenner, Philip Chen, Pete Wingfield, Mel Collins, Bruce Rowlands and his old friend Cliff Aungier, amongst others.
These LPs, ‘Wun’ (released in 1972) and ‘Rags to Gladrags’ (released in 1976) represented a new direction for Gerry. His self-penned compositions came to the fore including introspective and family-inspired songs such as ‘Father to your children’, ‘My brother’, ‘Temptations’ and the chilling elegy ‘She was a very good friend of mine’ (written about his late mother).
However, the association with Nigel Thomas was not to last and Gerry soon discovered new audiences on mainland Europe, where he concentrated his live work from the mid 70s.
Germany, Austria, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, France and Italy provided Gerry with nearly his entire live itinerary for several years.
It was during these years that Gerry worked with new musicians, including blues harmonica players Matt Walsh and Walter Liniger, guitarist Ian Hunt and an emerging talent on the European blues scene, Hans Theessink.
Gerry continued to enjoy his status as an independent, self-managed musician organising short tours in different European countries on a regular basis.
During the mid – 1970s Gerry’s live work started to incorporate a PA system which enabled him to reach new audiences. Around this time he also started to use the relatively new Ovation Legend guitar (complete with built-in electric pick-ups) which was easier to play with amplification.
This change from the classic Martin D28 may have caused slight consternation amongst folk and blues purists but Gerry considered his style had to develop further. And after all, he had already made a huge contribution to the world of acoustic blues guitar with his early LPs and live work playing the Martin D28.
Gerry’s developing style was captured on later LPs including ‘Rally ‘Round The Flag’ (1976, live in Germany, featuring Matt Walsh), ‘The Shattered Eye'(1979, with Ian Hunt), ‘Total’ (1980, with Ian Hunt), ‘Across The Tracks’ (solo, 1981) and ‘Cushioned for a Soft Ride Inside’ (with Hans Theessink, 1981).
Photo: Peter Smith