Friday, August 24, 2012
Jerry Nelson's voice could be warm, it could be harsh, it could be silly, but it always had some kind of impact. It demanded attention. He was with the Muppets as far back as the mid-sixties when Jim Henson hired him to replace Frank Oz as Rowlf's right hand on The Jimmy Dean Show when Frank Oz was drafted. Frank failed his physical, but Jerry stuck around and became one of the main performers as the Henson company moved on to Sesame Street and The Muppet Show.
Jerry could play anything. Floyd Pepper was mellow and hip; Robin the Frog was enthusiastic and excitable, with occasional hints of self-doubt; Emmet Otter was humble and hopeful; the Count was an arithmomaniac with an obsessive compulsion to count everything--at least he always seems manic to me. Jerry was really good at playing manic crazies--he was also Lew Zealand and Crazy Harry.
Jerry played a lot of great Muppets: Mumford, Camilla, Angus McGonagle, Dr. Strangepork, Lewis Kazagger, Pops, Thog, Uncle Deadly, Herry Monster, Sherlock Hemlock, Marjory the Trash Heap, Pa Gorg, the Ubergonzo, Mad Monty, Blind Pew... the list goes on and on. And he could sing in a variety of styles; he was the lead vocal in many of my favorite Muppet songs.
I think, though, the one character who most embodied Jerry Nelson as a performer was Gobo Fraggle.
Jerry Nelson was one of the best. He excelled and was an integral voice (pun intended) in the direction of the Muppets. Other very talented performers have taken over his characters (particularly Matt Vogel), so I'm used to not hearing his voice anymore... but there won't ever be another Jerry Nelson.