The real Leroy Mercer is …

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Updated Sep 6, 2016

….not the gentleman pictured above, captured in a classic cut-up’s moment at one point or other during the Trucker Talent Search all-stars performance a week ago today at GATS. I was shooting photos of the performers when I turned to capture the 2016 Trucker Talent Search winner, Jason Lee Wilson, and his wife Aleksandra among the audience members –a profile shot, it would be, of the couple enjoying the show. That is, until Wilson turned to notice the camera aimed his way. The above is the result.

There’s something you’ll have to understand about Wilson — and myself. We met a couple days before this shot, and among the first things we talked about was an old story that Wilson had come across on Overdrive after searching around online for information about an old series of prank-call tapes that “went viral,” as it were, before that was an online thing, back in the 1980s, spawning a veritable industry of imitators. Fellow Knoxville-area musician Todd Steed is referenced in the story, given his role at Knoxville’s Raven Records store in “spreading the gospel,” as it were, about the tapes before much was known outside of a small circle of folks about just who made them.

The story is one that I wrote on the occasion of the Dualtone label’s 2008 release of the recordings on CD, an attempt to set the record straight on just who the comic genius behind those calls was: John Bean of Knoxville, Tenn., who passed away before the phenomenon of the tapes came to full fruition.

Real Leroy MercerAs with others who grew up listening to those tapes, Wilson and I spent the next couple days around the Dallas show inevitably trading lines from them and laughing, generally, when we happened to be in the same place.

So when I see that image above, I hear the voice of John Bean in his “Leroy Mercer” persona, delivering the trademark “Hunh,” no question mark, in response to, well, anything really. Slightly menacing, slightly ludicrous and always hilarious.

The old story I wrote, originally published in the print pages of Truckers News, is now housed here on Overdrive online. If you too have an old recollection of the tapes or are just looking for a laugh this Labor Day weekend, give it a read via this link: