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 Arthur Elmer “Jerry” Durham

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Arthur Elmer “Jerry” Durham

  • Birth 18 Oct 1924 Shiloh, Cumberland County, New Jersey, USA
  • Death 21 Mar 1999 West Deptford, Gloucester County, New Jersey, USA
  • Burial Woodbury, Gloucester County, New Jersey, USA
  • Memorial ID 38711159

Husband of:
1). Sarah (_______) Durham.
2). Dorothy E. (Johnson) Durham.

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Obituary from the Philadelphia Inquirer, Wednesday, March 24, 1999:

Arthur E. "Jerry" Durham, 74, a longtime special police officer and crossing guard in West Deptford, died Sunday at his West Deptford home.

He had lived in West Deptford for 36 years and was born in [Stow] Creek [near Shiloh], Cumberland County.

In the early 1980s, Mr. Durham became the last of West Deptford's special police to reach the rank of captain before the state eliminated ranks for special police, who help with crowd and traffic control. He was a special police officer for more than 25 years until he became too ill in September.

"He was the most dependable person we had in the organization," Deputy Police Chief James M. Hink said. "He made sure we had enough coverage" at events such as parades, high school graduations, and band and soccer competitions.

"It wasn't a glory-grabbing job ... and that's what made it all the more remarkable that he stuck with it for so long," Hink said. "Everybody here really liked him. Many of the young kids [who worked here as special police officers] have gone on to full-time police work, and he was their biggest cheerleader."

Mr. Durham was a crossing guard at Red Bank and Hessian Avenues for St. Matthew's School in National Park for nine years until September.

"The kids getting to school safely was important to him," Hink recalled.

Mr. Durham was a machine operator for the Hussman Refrigeration Co., now the Victory Co. in Cherry Hill, for 18 years before retiring in 1989.

A World War II Army veteran, he was a member of the American Legion Brooklawn Post.

He sang and played guitar with country bands and was a past member of the Philadelphia Musical Society Local 77.

Dorothy E. Johnson Durham said her husband was a self-taught musician who, at age 13, performed on a Bridgeton radio station after winning a contest.

Mr. Durham was a longtime member of St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church in Woodbury, where he had served as an usher. He also was a past member of the Colonial Fire Company in West Deptford and a past captain of the fire police.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his sons, Jerry and Joseph; daughters Helen Kennard, Deborah Joseph and Diane Ward; 10 grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; and a sister.

Friends may call between 6:30 and 9 p.m. today and between 10 and 10:45 a.m. tomorrow at St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church, Copper and Euclid Streets, Woodbury, where a Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. tomorrow. Burial will be in Woodbury Memorial Park, West Deptford.

Memorial donations may be made to the Police Athletic League, Box 89, Thorofare, N.J. 08056.

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Jerry was also a well-known country music musician in the Philadelphia & South Jersey area in the 1940s, 50s, 60s & 70s. His biography was featured in "Country Music News" in November 1991:

by Chip & Joan Williams
November 1991

This Month's Featured

Jerry Durham was born on October 18, 1924 on a farm in a little town called Shiloh, NJ.

"That's between Salem and Bridgeton. We lived there until I was 13 years old. I was the baby of the family. I had ten sisters and three brothers. My real first name is Arthur, but when I was about five years old we had a dog named Jerry and I couldn't say his name. One of my brothers said if I didn't learn that name he was going to start calling me Jerry. Well, I still couldn't say the name so he started calling me Jerry, and it stuck all my life!"

Like so many of our other Pioneers, Jerry remembers some unusual circumstances in getting his first guitar.

"Working on the farm with my dad, I finally saved enough money to buy a bike. Then I decided that I wanted a guitar after hearing a couple of country boys playing music. My dad said, ‘Well, you've got the bike and you're going to keep it.' I really wanted a guitar so I kept asking my dad and he finally let me trade my bike for it. Then he said, ‘Well, there's no more riding, so you better learn to play that guitar.' I said, ‘OK Dad!' So I learned how to play just by watching those other guys."

Jerry is another one of our Pioneers that got a chance to play on live radio at a very young age.

"I entered a talent contest down at the Criterion Theatre in Bridgeton. They gave out a prize of 12 weeks on the radio doing a solo and I won it. So, I went on the radio. That was WSNJ back then. Then my dad passed away before he ever really got to hear me play the guitar. Shortly after that my mom sold the farm and we moved up to Pennsauken, NJ."

Jerry's first job with a band was in 1946.

"There was an ad in the paper for a guitar player and singer, so I thought I might as well try out for it. A gentleman by the name of Bernie Betz came over to hear me sing, and half way through the second song he said, ‘You're hired.' So, I went with him to a place called Oley's Ranch. We were there for a few weeks when Bernie decided that he wanted a steel guitar player. He called around and got Fritz Riddell."

The first group featured Bernie Betz on fiddle, Hank Ferry on accordion, Jerry Durham on rhythm guitar and Fritz Riddell on steel. Bernie kept that first group pretty busy all over the Delaware Valley.

"After several months at Oley's we went to Saddlers in Atco, NJ for two years. After that we went to The Twin Bar in Gloucester. Then some people from Philadelphia that owned a place called The Click wanted us to come over and play for one night. The place was strictly formal. People wore tuxedos and everything. We went there in our Country clothes, western hats, boots, the whole nine yards and they went crazy over us. We wound up staying there for a whole month."

Then another chance came to play on live radio.

"We were back playing at Saddlers and they asked us to go over and see this gentleman at Sunset Beach. Oscar Dumont and his Orchestra were playing there on weekends under a pavilion on the beach. They wanted to try Country on Sundays so we played and broadcast live on WCAU."

Shortly after that, Bernie stopped playing music for a while and Jerry took over as leader of the band.

"We couldn't use Bernie's name so we changed the name to The Westerners. We worked at a place in Gloucester called Jack's. While there, the people from Saddlers came and asked us to come back. We signed a six week contract and wound up staying there for six years. We couldn't get away from there. Every time we wanted to leave they'd offer us more money. More, more and more! Finally, we felt that we were getting stale. They didn't and the people didn't, but we did so we went back to Oley's Ranch. This time it was called Sally Starr's Ranch and we worked for her for quite a while."

Jerry had another memory of another unusual job.

"We were playing in Philadelphia at Barcel's. There was a lady there that asked for a song and I told her we would get it but we had several requests before hers. Well, we got about halfway through the requests when she yelled, ‘Where's my song?' ‘It's coming up,' I said, and after a while she yelled up again, ‘Where's my song?' I told her again, ‘It's coming up.' She said, ‘Oh yeah, well so is this!' So she started throwing bottles up at us, someone stopped her before she threw a chair! Well, Lenny and I almost fell off the stage laughing. Luckily, there was a steel cage around the bandstand so nothing hit us. She finally calmed down and we did her song on the next set. That was one of the best paying jobs we ever had. I guess it was combat pay!"

Jerry's band through the years had some of the finest musicians including Dave Streaser on bass, Bob Sturgis on accordion and others. Jerry finally got tired of the headaches of being a band leader and decided to work for somebody else.

"Slim Harris at that time was a rhythm man and a singer. I had played with him off and on but never really worked with him. Well, his guitar player was leaving and he asked me to take his place. I joined him at a place called Ma Mitchell's in Clementon. Slim started playing bass at that time. From there we went to The Twin Bar and then on to The White Owl which later became The Dragon Inn. Then we went to work at The Lakeview Inn. Mike & Paul just took it over and we were only the second band to play there. We played the whole SJ circuit including The Alamo, which isn't there anymore. It was like a big cycle and just kept going around and around between five or six clubs."

Then Slim got sick and Jerry found himself leading another group.

"We booked mostly as a trio while Slim was in the hospital. We worked at The Maple Inn. It was Curley Spena on lead, Lenny Zinocola on drums and me on rhythm guitar. We worked at The Parkgrow in Clementon and many other clubs. We never finished a contract without having another place to play already lined up. Other bass players filled in with us from time to time while Slim was sick. There was Lucky Steel, Pee Wee Miller, Sonny Sleeter and Lou Graham. When Slim came back we called the group The Sterophonix and it stayed that way until I got sick and Johnny Langley took my place. That was around 1974."

Like all of our Pioneers, Jerry worked more than one job all through those years.

"I worked at the New York Shipyard for several years until they closed. Then I was an electrician for several years. Then I got out of that and worked at Hudson's from 1971 until I retired in 1989. I'm still an active member of the West Deptford Special Police Force and have been for the past 18 years. Before that, I was in the Fire Police for 15 years."

During his busy music career and his time consuming day jobs, Jerry still found time to write songs.

"My best song was one called ‘Dream of Me.' I wrote that one for my wife because that was the only time she ever saw me, when I was sleeping. She took care of the children and the house and everything else!"

Jerry still loves good Country music and he still plays at family get-togethers and parties with his musician friends and he has a lot of them!

"I feel this way about Country music. Every song that you hear is a story about somebody's life. Either something that's already happened to them or what they're dreaming about. Every word touches somebody in some way and that's why it's meant so much to me. Looking back, there were people who came from far and wide to hear us play and they were all great people! I'm glad I got to do my share for them."

Jerry Durham, we're sure glad we got to tell your story here first in Country Music News. Best Wishes!





  • Created by: Spaceman Spiff
  • Added: 24 Jun 2009
  • Find A Grave Memorial 38711159
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Arthur Elmer “Jerry” Durham (18 Oct 1924–21 Mar 1999), Find A Grave Memorial no. 38711159, citing Woodbury Memorial Park, Woodbury, Gloucester County, New Jersey, USA ; Maintained by Spaceman Spiff (contributor 46783007) .