Larry Raspberry has been a part of Memphis music since the mid-sixties as the lead singer and guitarist with the Gentrys. The group of Treadwell High School alumni included Bruce Bowles (vocals), Bobby Fisher (saxophone, keyboards), Jimmy Hart (vocals), Jimmy Johnson (trumpet), Pat Neal (bass guitar), Larry Raspberry (guitar, lead vocalist), drummer Larry Wall (replaced by Mike Gardner) and Larry Butler (keyboards). The Gentrys formed in May of 1963 as a garage band playing local dances, they were very successful playing for high school dates. Just over a year later in September 1964, they won third place in the Mid-South Fair Talent Competition and auditioned for the Ted Mack Amateur Hour. Another notable band member during the 1963–1966 years was Ardent engineer/producer Terry Manning (keyboards).
The Gentrys had a million-seller with “Keep on Dancing” reaching No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1965. That led to appearances on Hullabaloo, Shindig and Where the Action Is, they also opened for The Beach Boys and Sonny and Cher, as well as playing on Dick Clark’s tours.
Raspberry went on to play with a group called Alamo, who released a self-titled LP in 1971 and then it was solo flying for a while before forming the Highsteppers with his wife Carol Ferrante, a local celebrity herself as a former Miss Tennessee entry in the Miss America pageant. On-stage, Larry Raspberry is a dynamic showman, going back and forth between lead guitar and Jerry Lee Lewis style piano playing, while working the crowd as few can. Which brought Josh Haynes to tell me in an interview once that the first time he talked to Raspberry (on the phone) about playing with the Highsteppers “He talked so fast, I thought he was a used car salesman.” Like the Gentrys in the sixties, the Highsteppers were Memphis’ most popular band of the seventies. They signed with Enterprise, a division of Stax Records, and started work on their debut album, Highsteppin’ and Fancy Dancin’ with Memphis producing legend Don Nix.
Larry Raspberry is also an excellent songwriter writing songs for artist like Carly Simon “Tired of Being Blonde,” the Everly Brothers “Always Drive a Cadillac,” Jimmy Buffett “Dixie Diner,” and Carl Perkins “Let’s Get Upset.”
Don’t miss the return of Larry Raspberry to Memphis and Lafayette’s Music Room in Overton Square Sunday, January 31st from 4 pm to 7 pm. As Bobby Lane said, “So glad Lafayette is carrying on the Memphis music tradition.” That they are. I, for one, am so glad to have Lafayette’s back doing what they have always done, spotlighting great local and national talent.