Which leads me to this… Around midnight Central, I received a phone call from my mom telling me that my Uncle Jerry, after over a year long battle with brain cancer, passed away.
A brief rush of emotions surged after I hung up the phone and I immediately turned to my iPod and flipped on Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland.
Like yesterday, I remember my 14th birthday party at my Grandma’s house. I remember walking through my Grandma’s garage into the house and hearing my Uncle Jerry calling my name (“Big Matt Babbbeeyyyyy”) as he walked around the side porch to give me my birthday present.
It was Electric Ladyland, the third and final release from Jimi Hendrix. The funny thing was that it was unwrapped from its packaging and he apologized because he said after he left Fred Meyers and got home he wanted to listen it. (I laugh hysterically about this right now as I type that, because that was Uncle Jerry).
He also told me and this is what I’ll always remember as I gazed at the cover art of Hendrix on fire and the back of it with him, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell… “I know you like Jimi and this is a little bit different from most of the stuff you’ve heard before. You might not like it and if you don’t, just give it back to me… You’re probably too young to really like it, but, listen to ‘1983’ it’s fucken awesome what he does with the guitar man!”
Keep in mind here, he stops walking with me through the garage, he puts extra tonal infliction in his voice, starts shaking his head with a look of intense passion and starts playing air guitar with a little extra lean to it to give that little extra whine in the guitar that Hendrix did so well.
I listened to the CD and I liked it but didn’t capture what he said back then. It wasn’t until I was long gone from Vancouver and in Minnesota during my senior year (nearly 10 years after I got the album) that I fully appreciated Electric Ladyland for its quality. My roommate pulled it out of my collection and began playing it as well and the rest is history.
Since then, it has been something I still listen to at least once a month and since he became very sick, probably once a week. It has turned out to be one of the best gifts I’ve ever received, probably the No. 1 birthday gift, because from there I discovered so much more music and it really has opened so many doors in that respect.
It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
So as I write this (around 1:15am), with “1983… A Merman I Should Turn to Be” now playing in the final third of the album and Hendrix taking the listener on the journey under the sea, I can’t help but think what positive musical influence “Jer Dog” was for me as he, like my parents, introduced me to the blues and Electric Ladyland, truly a masterpiece of blues and musical engineering.
We all have our flaws in life and certainly no one is prone to the perfect existence, but none of that matters anymore. In William Gerald Scheerer, I will always remember this gift and the big heart that he had for helping people and of course music, which was always playing his shop. He made wonderful things in the shop as a carpenter as well, building me a dresser for my 18th birthday and signing the bottom “Uncle Buck”, his self-given nickname for himself.
I write this in honor of Uncle Jerry and leave you with my tribute to him, the complete album of Electric Ladyland.
I also leave with one of his final requests passed on to me as told to my mom from his wife Tracy, that I listen to Alice in Chains Unplugged.
It’s a simple request and I will honor that as a firm believer in the little things.