Jerry Lee Lewis is the piano player extraordinaire, aged 83, and released his last album in 2014, Rock & Roll Time
Jerry Lee Lewis is the piano player extraordinaire, aged 83, and released his last album in 2014, Rock & Roll Time.
Ironic that even Mick Jagger was happy to sing backing vocals with him. Also Keith Richards, and Ronnie Wood on guitar.
The man who seemed destined, at age 24, to die before thirty is still standing, alive.
Once shooting his bassist; creating outrage and controversy by marrying a girl aged 13, a second cousin for good measure; the ensuing scandal forced him to cancel a UK tour at the time after just three concerts.
The affair rendered him unemployable he went from $10,000 a night (in 1958) to $250. Nobody would hire him. Lost all his friends at the time, and was ostracised by the Music industry.
He remained married for 13 years, however, and had two children with Myra.
During this period he continued playing, wherever he could get a show, for whatever they would pay him.
He shattered the disciplines of country and rock and roll simultaneously; he became known as the killer.
Perhaps because he really did shoot his bassist!
High on drugs at the time, the incident happened while Lewis was waving a gun around while he talked to his bass player Butch Owens, at Lewis’ birthday party in 1976. Known for his erratic behaviour, Lewis became overly animated and pulled the trigger on the .357 magnum with the gun pointing at Owens’ chest.
Owens miraculously survived.
Some weeks later Jerry Lee was involved again with a gun when he went to visit Elvis at the Graceland residence, at Presley’s invitation.
Unfortunately, nobody had told the security guard. Upon being questioned, he took the magnum pistol from the dashboard and asked the guard ‘one more time’ if he knew who he was.
The gun was pointed straight at the guard's chest.
The guard let him in.
Bodyguards who were present, recounted how Elvis and Lewis fell around the place laughing uncontrollably when Jerry shared the story….
In 1958, before losing his place in the music hierarchy, playing a concert where Chuck Berry was headlining, he was billed to go on before Berry, and wasn’t too happy about the running order.
As he finished his set, he dropped petrol from his cigar lighter on the piano and set the instrument ablaze; then proceeded to perform ‘Great Balls of Fire’ while the piano blazed away around him. Coming offstage he walked to Berry who was shocked by the incident and laughed saying “follow that Chuck… !”
Maybe because he came to be renowned as the ultimate ball of unpredictable energy who could at any time lose the cool, and break out in unpredictable acts of violence, he got away with such outrageous, sensational behaviour.
Back in the Day
Once upon a time, when he was younger and touring extensively, he came to Ireland. By coincidence, the Rolling Stones were in Ireland at the same time, staying in Barberstown Castle outside Dublin.
The idea was mooted that it would be a great occasion to have Lewis meet the Stones, so a well known promoter who had Jerry Lee on tour at the time, agreed to drive him out to the Castle.
The plan had been mooted that the Stones were quite prepared to appear on an album by Lewis, thereby further affirming his standing in the music world.
He called to Jerry Lee’s Hotel, where the great man was finishing getting dressed. At the time Lewis was going through a phase of being impeccably turned out at all times. He wore a velvet jacket, a shirt with frills at the front, topped off by a big bow tie.
Taking himself very seriously was, he felt, the only way to assert his reputation, and be given the respect he truly deserved.
In the drive out to the hotel he kept asking what the Rolling Stones knew about him, the driver obliged by confirming as everyone knew, they were hugely respectful of Jerry Lee.
But he’d decided to come out a little early, Lewis at the time - nor indeed since - wasn’t guided by any of the usual rules. He was highly excited travelling out to meet the famous quartet.
The Rolling Stones
When they arrived, around noon, the Rolling Stones were awake but hungover after a massive booze up the previous night.
They’d retired to the rehearsal room to have a sort of warm up jam.
Jerry Lee heard the din, and walked very slowly towards the open door and looked in. What greeted him, he was totally unprepared for; the Stones were still, well, stoned.
The room was a chaotic shambles of littered beer cans, wine bottles, champagne bottles, and leftover food.
With a look of extreme distaste on his face, with lips curled downwards, he listened to what they were attempting to arrange, playing acoustic guitars.
The driver said that they were here early and to wait and see what he thought, no point making his mind up on first sighting.
In trepidation he managed to get Lewis to relax, and suggested he sit down.
Lewis sat on a nearby steps, and watched, listening.
For about twenty minutes he managed to endure the alien sounds, when suddenly Keith Richards spotted him sitting in the doorway and started to walk across to him, guitar held in one hand, glass in the other but Richards looked worse for wear.
As he got near Jerry Lee, he dropped the glass and stuck out his hand to shake hands. Lewis was horrified and recoiled as though he was accosted by a snake.
He drew himself up to his full height and looked down at Richards saying “if ever you guys learn to play, call me!”
With that he turned and called to the driver who was now aghast with the exchange and said over his shoulder, “C'mon buddy, take the Killer home.”
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