Jerry Lee Lewis : His Own Story by Rick Bragg
Jerry Lee Lewis the focal point on a classic film blog? Did you know Lewis has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? How about that he once starred in a musical version of Othello as the villain Iago on stage opposite William Marshall in the title role?
Why not. The Killer’s music has been featured on more soundtracks then mere mortal musicians could ever dream of.
I’ve never hid the fact that I am a classic country music fan but let’s not forget that when Rock turned it’s back on him in the sixties Lewis scored hit after hit on country radio with songs like Another Place, Another Time and What Made Milwaukee Famous. Truthfully though when it comes to the Rock’n Roll I love it pretty much starts with The Killer and Elvis.
Lewis tells his story here through hours of interviews put to page by author Bragg. Any lover of music has to marvel at hearing the tale told first hand by Lewis of the Sun studio days when Jerry joined Cash, Perkins, Orbison and Elvis in producer Sam Phillips studio in Memphis, Tennessee. It’s the birth of music as we know it. Rock, blues, gospel and Country all were all heavily influenced by these artists and who would have thought that the wildest one of the bunch is the “Last Man Standing.”
I frequently google Lewis on youtube to watch his countless renditions captured by cameras of Great Balls of Fire, Whole Lot of Shakin’ and the many other songs he covered and or claimed as his own. There’s something about Lewis that reminds me of an arrogant boxer. One who refuses to be defeated and does what he wants with a piano, the crowd and the written song as if he was toying with a long shot underdog the way Ali would. It can make for some awfully entertaining performances.
I did have the pleasure of seeing Lewis once on stage back around 1990 and he didn’t disappoint. He walked on stage carrying a large Sherlock Holmes styled pipe and cut loose keeping me and the crowd on our feet the entire time he hammered away on the piano.
The stories are all here in the book. The poor years as a child who learned the piano to dreaming of the days he’d play in the all night bars where God fearing men shouldn’t be. His cousins Jimmy Swaggart and Mickey Gilley come and go as do the many wives he’d hold close including Myra, the thirteen year old cousin he claimed as wife number three.
This part of the story was turned into a pretty hammy film back in 1989 with Dennis Quaid as Lewis and Winona Ryder as the under aged bride. I was excited about the film at the time only to be crushed at the end product. Quaid came off badly though if you’ve seen Lewis on camera and in concert perhaps it’s hard not to ham it up a bit as an actor.
Drugs, alcohol and women are very prevalent in the story but it’s amazing how The Killer has kept rising from the ashes repeatedly over the years. Just as he was about to become the world’s biggest singing star in the late fifties it crashed around him on the infamous trip to England where his marriage to Myra was exposed and basically frowned upon by the entire human race.
Tragedy hasn’t been denied in his life either. Two sons and two wives are buried in the family plot. All four deaths the result of mishap and all before their time. Yet Lewis soldiers on. Now that he’s in the twilight of his life he seems to have settled down yet the hunger is still there for one more go around to bring the musical world to it’s knees with another rocking hit.
If you love the music and the stories of Jerry Lee that have become legend this one’s worth the time.
Now how about some classic Killer……
A little country…..
And the rocking classic ….