- CD: Southern Sound Sessions
- Seductive Eyes
- The Little Rebel
- We Did This
- CD: Below the Level of the Sea
- New Orleans in the Spring
- Chubby Man Blues
- Magnolia Spring
- CD: Red Blues
- Mackinac Blues
- Here I Go
- The Sun Also Rises
- CD: Christmas on the Coast
- Your Kiss Is My Wish List
- Jingle Bells (Christmas in New Orleans)
- Moments with Eugene. Essay: Eugene Walter-Everywhere
- Mobile: Sunbelt Center of Opportunity by Cathalynn Donelson (Les Kerr helped to write)
- The All-American Truck Stop Cookbook (Ken Beck, Jim Clark, and Les Kerr) Rutledge Hill Press
by Sara Lewis (SHS)
Les Kerr was born October 19, 1956, in Shreveport, Louisiana, but he was adopted as an infant and grew up in Mississippi. He considers Mississippi his home state. His adoptive parents were Mr. And Mrs. M. L. Kerr, Jr. Both were originally from Louisville, Mississippi, but by the time they adopted Les they lived in Jackson. In 1962 his father passed away, and six years later his mother married his stepfather, Robert K. Gordin, also of Jackson. In 1970, the family moved from Jackson to Pascagoula, Mississippi, on the Gulf Coast. He is an only child . He has lived in Nashville since 1987 (Kerr).
When he was in high school, Kerr began to learn to play guitar. Elvis Presley was a major influence on Kerr. He formed a band in Pascagoula High School called “Les Kerr and the Blue Suede Band.” The band played at pep rallies, talent shows and parties. Their repertoire included a lot of early rock and roll, including songs by Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Elvis. In college, he began to play bluegrass in college with groups called “The Eighth of January” and “The
Waterford Road.” During this time (1974-78), he also performed as a solo act and began writing songs.
After graduation from Pascagoula High School in 1974, Kerr earned his degree in broadcast journalism at Ole Miss (Mississippi Magazine 12). From 1978 to 1985, he was news director of several radio stations in Pascagoula, Hattiesburg, Gulfport, and Mobile, Alabama.. For a short time after he left broadcasting, he was communications manager for the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce. During those years in full-time journalism, Kerr continued to perform and write songs as often as possible. In 1986, he decided to go into music full-time. He then became a songwriter and recording artist (Mississippi Magazine 12). He moved to Nashville in 1987 and started a band called “Les Kerr and the Bayou Band.” The Bayou Band and Kerr mix blues, Zydeco, Cajun, island rhythm, and rock together. Since 1990 band members have included Nashville musicians Robbie Shankle (drums), Bryan Cumming (sax), Bill Haymes (keyboard), Catesby Jones and Danny Driftwood (bass).” Kerr performs often in Mississippi and throughout the country and is still an active journalist, contributing to books, magazines and newspaper.
Les Kerr and the Bayou Band have performed numerous concerts. On August 26, 1994, they performed at the “Off the Wall” preview party (Pickle 14). As a solo acoustic act, Les Kerr has performed with his guitar at Fort Campbell Officers Club in Clarksville, Tennessee. He and his band have also performed at many private parties in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, and in the Clarksville area (Tucker). The band performed in Crockett Park in Brentwood, Tennessee, on August 23, 1998, and they also have performed many free public concerts (East and Lethgo 5W). To celebrate Fat Tuesday, he and his band have performed at the Bluebird Café every Mardi Gras since 1992. In 1999 Kerr performed in Mobile for the first time since 1994 (“Mobile Register”) at Veet’s with Mobile native, Danny McCann.
Les Kerr records on his own O.N.U. recording label (East and Lethgo 5W). He has recorded four CD’s: Red Blues, Below the Level of the Sea, Southern Sound Sessions, and Christmas on the Coast.. Several of the songs on Southern Sound Session are about Mississippi (Mississippi Magazine 12). Kerr decided to name his second CD Below the Level of the Sea because New Orleans is physically below sea level (East, Jim and Lethgo, Janet 5W). Female students at Ole Miss were an inspiration for the hit song “Seductive Eyes” (Mississippi Magazine 12). Kerr calls his music “Hillbilly Blues, Caribbean Rock and Roll” (Tucker).
Kerr is married to Gail Kerr, a columnist for Nashville’s daily newspaper, The Tennessean. They have no children.
- 1980’s–was news director in two radio stations.
- 1986–wrote two chapters for Mobile: Sunbelt Center of Opportunity( “Made in Mobile” and “City in Motion”)
- 1992–Began headlining annual Mardi Gras concerts at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, Tennessee.
- 1994–Below the Level of the Sea was released. August 26-“Off The Wall” preview party.
- 1998– August 23-Concert at Crockett Park.
- 1999–Southern Sound Sessions CD released.
- 1999–Bluebird Café (concert).
- 1999–Knoxville Dogwood Festival (concert).
- 1999–Cannonball House (concert).
- 2000–July-Red Blues CD was released.
- 2000–placed in top 3 in the Music City Blues Society’s Acoustic Blues Challenge.
- 2000–Nashville’s Independence Day Celebration. (concert)
- 2000–9th annual Mardi Gras concert.
- 2000–Southern Festival of Books.
- 2000– Moments with Eugene was published.
- 2002– February 12- 11th consecutive Mardi Gras Show at Nashville’s Bluebird Café on “Fat Tuesday.”
- 2002–Christmas on the Coast (CD)
Co-authored The All-American Truck Stop Cookbook with Ken Beck and Jim Clark
Appeared on nationally-broadcast radio shows including clear channel WSM AM’s Opry Star Spotlight, the syndicated Ershine Overnight program
By Sara Lewis (SHS)
Sara: What was the date and place of your birth?
Mr. Kerr: I was born October 19, 1956, in Shreveport, Louisiana. However, I was adopted as an infant and grew up in Mississippi. I consider Mississippi my home state.
Sara: Who are your parents and siblings?
Mr. Kerr: My parents were Mr. And Mrs. M. L. Kerr, Jr. They were both originally from Louisville, MS, but by the time they adopted me, they lived in Jackson, MS, so that’s where I lived until I was thirteen years old. My father passed away in 1962 and six years later, my mother married my stepfather, Robert K. Gordin, also of Jackson. In 1970, we moved from Jackson to Pascagoula, MS, on the Gulf Coast. I am an only child and have no siblings.
Sara: Where did you attend school and did you continue with school after high school?
Les Kerr: After graduation from Pascagoula High School in 1974, I attended the University of Mississippi, where I attained a BA in Broadcast Journalism. From 1978-1985, I was news director of several radio stations in Pascagoula, Hattiesburg, MS, Gulf port, MS, and Mobile, AL. For a short time after I left broadcasting, I was communications manager for the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce.
During those years in full-time journalism, I continued to play music as often as possible and in 1986, I decided to go into music full-time. I moved to Nashville in 1987. I perform often here and throughout the country, and am still an active journalist, contributing to books, magazines and newspaper.
Sara: What different kinds of music do you listen to, and what is your favorite?
Les Kerr: I like many kinds of music, and I am as likely to listen to blues as to bluegrass. When I was growing up, my mother taught me to try to appreciate all kinds of music. I enjoy rock, blues, bluegrass, island rhythms and big band and call my music Hillbilly Blues Caribbean Rock & Roll” because of all of those influences.
Sara: What got you started in the music business?
Les Kerr: When I was in high school, I began to learn to play guitar. Elvis Presley was a huge influence on me, and I formed a band in Pascagoula High School called “Les Kerr and the Blue Suede Band.” We played at pep rallies, talent shows and parties. Our repertoire included a lot of early rock and roll, including songs by Chuck Berry, Little Richard and, of course, Elvis.
Always open to all kinds of music, I began to play bluegrass when I was in college with groups called “The Eighth of January” and “The Waterford Road.” During this time (1974-78), I also performed as a solo act and began writing songs. I still actually play some of the songs I wrote back then.
Sara: Have you always wanted to be a singer?
Les Kerr: Yes, as well as a songwriter. I am very fortunate that I can perform and record my own songs.
Sara: How do you feel about Mississippi?
Les Kerr: I am very proud to be a Mississippian. I lived there until I was twenty-four years old. Because my family lived in Jackson and Pascagoula and I went to college in Oxford, I feel I know the whole state pretty well. Although my parents are no longer alive, I still have relatives in Jackson, Louisville, Philadelphia and Columbus and do visit them as often as possible. My music career also takes me back and I have performed all over Mississippi, even though I live in Nashville.
I got a good education in Mississippi and have known many fine people there throughout my life. The musical and literary heritage of Mississippi speaks for itself and it is my hope to live up to that tradition as I continue to pursue music and journalism.
While working on a term paper about Tennessee Williams, the playwright who was born in Columbus, I came across this quote from him that has meant a lot to me since I read it in 1974:
“Home is where you hang your childhood and Mississippi to me is the beauty spot of creation, a dark, wide spacious land that you can breathe in.”
Sara: What are some of your favorite concerts you have performed?
Les Kerr: It is still a thrill to perform, no matter where the show may take place. Headlining at Nashville’s Bluebird Café is always an honor. My band and I have hosted eleven consecutive Mardi Gras shows there since 1992 and we bring a little Gulf Coast fun to the Bluebird. It is also an honor to occasionally perform in the Country Music Hall of Fame here in Music City.
Among the festivals and large events I fondly remember are the Atlanta Dogwood Festival, Panoply (Huntsville, AL), and First Night Mobile (Mobile, AL). In Nashville, participating in Summer Lights, the Country Music Marathon, the Italian Street Fair and Fest de Ville Nashville stand out. The Franklin, TN Jazz Festival was also a highlight.
One of the most delightful experiences I’ve had was singing at The Camellia Grill in New Orleans, Louisiana on the fortieth anniversary of that fine restaurant because of a song I wrote about it. I love Orleans and its music and always enjoy performing in the Crescent City.
Sara: Do you have a wife and/or kids?
Les Kerr: My wife is Gail Kerr, a columnist for Nashville’s daily newspaper, The Tennessean. We have no children.
- “Les Kerr.” http://www.leskerr.com/bio.htm
- “Southern Sounds.” Mississippi Magazine. September/October 1999.
- Tucker, Kyle. “Nawlins on the lawn.” The Leaf Chronicle. SPOTLIGHT.
- Pickle, Betsy. “Movable art-off one wall.” The Knoxville News-Sentinel. August 21, 1994. 14.
- Stephens, Sunny. “Les Kerr and the Bayou Band.” Music City Blues Society Bluesletter. Nashville, TN. April, 1998.
- East, Jim and Janet Lethgo. “Steel drums canceled, but Caribbean and New Orleans Sounds will play.” The Tennessean. August 20, 1998. 5W.Kerr, Les. E-mail interview to Sara Lewis, April, 2002.
- “Les Kerr to Play Saturday Show.” Mobile Register. September 17, 1999. 14 E.