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The Road Less Taken:
A promising rock star left his
career behind to be there for his kids.

By ERIC WALTER - ewalter@mpnewspapers.com

1957 and 1958 were big years in Jerry Englerth's life. The budding singer-songwriter's single "Sputnik" had done well on the charts and he had shared the stage with icons like Fats Domino, Chuck Berry and the Everly Brothers. He'd even recorded two of his own songs with the legendary Buddy Holly playing guitar. Had he been willing to devote all his efforts to touring and recording, the former Irondequoit and current Chili resident is convinced he'd have made it big. But life is about choices, and Englerth said he can't really regret his.

With his first marriage breaking up at the time, his children, aged 3 and 4, would have been left home alone. Coming from a broken home himself, an absentee father was not something he was willing to become. So he hung up his touring boots. He was 22. "My career never came first. Never did, never will," said Englerth, 69, and a retired Xerox Corp. manager.



While Englerth took on a new career in business, he's never really given up music. Covering 49 years of songwriting, singing and guitar work he just self-published his first CD, "A Whole Lotta Years, A Whole Lotta Music," under his stage name Jerry Engler. Ranging from country to rock-and-roll to rockabilly, the album includes several tracks from Englerth's youth, including the Holly-backed "What A' Ya Gonna Do" and "I Sent You Roses." Many others were recorded over the years in a home-studio set-up in his former Irondequoit home.

These days health problems keep Englerth fairly close to home, but he's hoping a bit of luck may bring his album to the eyes of a prominent artist or two looking for material."It's not too late," he laughed. "Maybe not as a performer, but maybe as a songwriter my music can still get out."



A Rochester native, Englerth was playing country-western locally well before there was much of an audience for it in the Northeast.And when Elvis made it big, Englerth helped form a rock band and was a regular at local talent shows, college parties and other venues. It was at one of those shows that he met Nick Nickson. Known as "The 'Ol Professor," a popular local DJ with WBBF-AM, Nickson became a sort of defacto manager. Now a retired sales manger with WHAM-AM 1180, he remembers Englerth well."I'd have to say (with) Jerry, if any local guy had it, he did," said the Brighton resident. "He could have made it if that was his goal." Nickson shies away from the formal title of manager. He was just a local music lover looking to help a talented local kid out, he insists. But when Englerth and the band came out with "Sputnik" both knew they had a potential winner.

 

It was 1957 and the Soviet Union had just launched the real Sputnik into orbit. It was an event that sparked fear, awe, paranoia and the advent of the space race. It also seemed to Englerth to be a good basis for a song: "I say the fun has just begun," goes the chorus on Englerth's version. "We're on Sputnik Number One." Musically, the song was good enough to be catchy and topical enough to catch on, Nickson said. A friend at a Decca Records subsidiary happened to agree - and arranged for the single's release.

You can find out more about what happened next - including Englerth's sessions with Buddy Holly in Clovis, N.M. SEE BELOW.



After playing with Holly, The Crickets, Fats Domino, the Everly Brothers and other rock legends at a show at the Rochester War Memorial (now the Blue Cross Arena), Englerth traveled to the Clovis for a paid session at the studio where Holly recorded his hits.Tape rolled Sept. 7, 1958 - Holly's 22nd birthday. They were close to Holly's last sessions. Five months later, the singer died in a plane crash. Only 22 himself at the time, Englerth describes that crash as his first taste of mortality."It was the first time I ever had someone my age pass away," he said. "It just floored me."

For Englerth, music is still a passion - but so are his (now) four children, multiple grandchildren and Elaine, his second wife. "We've been together 45 years," he chuckled. "So I must have done something right."


Copyright ©Gates-Chili Post





To Readers and Fans:
June, 2005 - I was born March 31, 1936 in Rochester NY and moved to Phoenix Arizona when I was 10. I lived there for 4 years and returned to Rochester. Thought you would like to know my CD is being distributed by Bear Family Records out of Germany. I'm really pleased to be associated with them again. They did "SPUTNIK" on Vol. 6 of "That'll Flat Git It".
Jerry Englerth - jerrycme@rochester.rr.com



JERRY ENGLER'S CD, "A Whole Lotta Years, A Whole Lotta Music,"
features two cuts with Buddy Holly on guitar and Jerry's great hit "Sputnik."
More information here: cdbaby.com/cd/jerryengler


Page Posted June, 2005




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