OPINION

‘Summertime Blues’ composer was from Goodman

Wes Franklin
Guest Columnist

I can hardly believe I didn’t know this until recently, but Jerry Capehart, who co-wrote the well-known hit song “Summertime Blues”, was from Goodman. In fact, he’s buried there. 

Capehart was born on August 22, 1928 in Goodman to Averil and Rachael (Friend) Capehart. 

According to census records, in 1930 the family was living in Miami, Arizona, where Averil was a laborer for a copper mining company. 

By the 1940 census, the family, including 11-year-old Jerry, had moved back to the area and lived in Neosho, at 510 Morrow St, which they rented with another family. Not very long after that they lived on a rural route in Webb City, per Averil’s draft registration card during World War II. 

By 1946, however, the family had moved to Bell Gardens, California, according to Jerry’s draft card. 

During the Korean War, young Jerry Capehart served as a pilot in the Air Force, according to secondary sources. At some point around that time, he started writing songs, and even had one, “Beautiful Brown Eyes,” performed by Rosemary Clooney, reach number 11 on the Pop charts in 1951. 

Capehart tried to make a go of it as a singer himself, but later decided to focus on song writing, managing, and producing. 

He is probably best known for his partnership with rock ‘n’ roller Eddie Cochran, whom he met in 1955 in a music store in Bell Gardens, California. The two really clicked, and Capehart became his manager. Together they cranked out some hit tunes, the most famous of which is “Summertime Blues” in 1958. According to Capehart, he was primarily the lyricist and Eddie created the music. “Summertime Blues” hit the U.S. Top 10 Charts and has become a classic, covered by everyone from The Who to Alan Jackson. 

It’s a simple, catchy song of teenage frustration in the summertime: 

“I’m gonna raise a fuss, I’m gonna raise a holler;

‘Bout working all summer just to try and earn a dollar. 

Yeah sometimes I wonder what I’m gonna do, 

‘Cause there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.” 

Capehart and Cochran also wrote the hit song “C’mon Everybody”, which peaked in the United Kingdom at number 6, and number 35 on the U.S. Billboard Charts. They wrote many other songs together, some successes, some flops, before Cochran was killed in an auto accident in 1960. 

Capehart also worked with and was manager for other performers, including singer Glen Campbell and impressionist/actor Frank Gorshin, who played The Riddler in the old Batman television series. 

All told, Capehart is said to have written more than 100 songs in his career. He was in Nashville pitching another song, “Summertime Blues Number 2”, in fact, when he died of brain cancer on June 7, 1998. He is buried in Howard Cemetery in Goodman, with his parents. 

He kept a Goodman address throughout the 1990s, according to online records, and I don’t know how long before then. So did I. My folks still do. I don’t know how much time he actually spent here then (as he also spent time in Nashville), but I can’t believe I didn’t know who he was. I was born, raised, and lived almost all of my life here. I wish I would have met him. 

The city of Goodman might give some thought to putting up “home of ‘Summertime Blues’ composer Jerry Capehart” signs at the city limits. 

It would be cool, too, if someone in the Goodman area would put on a “Jerry Capehart music festival” - held in the summertime, of course.