T. TEX EDWARDS ON BLOGSPOT
Consisting primarily of re-blogs of interesting stuff with a few original blogpostings here and there...
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Great Jerry Lee Lewis story from Scott Baggett
Great Jerry Lee Lewis story from my friend Scott Baggett(via Andy McLenon)
Part One :
THROUGH THE PAST DARKLY Vol. 33
“The Killer goes into the phone booth”
Ramada Inn North*Nashville*June 1985
Be forewarned .... This is a long ‘un.
I’ve always been a non stop reader. And always
had a fatal attraction to anything that has to do
with music or the music business. If you put those
two things together you have created a monster that
has read everything about everybody. Over time I've
plowed through just about every biography or auto-
biography that some poor tree has given it’s life for.
Even when I couldn’t care less about the person’s
music, I read it anyhow with the idea that there might
be something to learn. Usually it ends up being what
not to do. Out of all these books (and also magazine
articles) there are always a few names that crop up
decade after decade because of insane antics and
misbehavior. Keith Moon, John Bonham, Chuck
Berry, Jim Morrison, Keith Richards etc etc…you
know the list as well. But almost always at the tippy
top of this food chain, one name stands tall against
all rivals for the crown. This name is Jerry Lee Lewis.
I’m not even going to begin to try to relay any of the
tales he’s credited with because it’s just not possible
to know where to start. All I can do is tell you about
my one and only encounter with the man. Now don't
get your hopes up that it’s criminal, dangerous or
outrageous. It's not. But it's probably an insightful
look into his thought process and general demeanor.
As mentioned in Volume 21, I played guitar for a time
with Kathy Twitty, daughter of Conway. Also in this
band, the drummer was David Fontana, son of Elvis
drummer DJ Fontana (see Volume 17 for more detail
on that). In June of 1985 Kathy and band had a five
night stand here in Nashville during “Fan Fair” week.
For those that don’t know, this is a week where all of
middle America and beyond descends on Nashville
to mingle with and be entertained up close and very
personal by their fave rave country star. This means
nobody is on the road and everybody is running all
over trying to see and be seen.
So now we are at the Ramada Inn North and it is
sort of a hot spot in 1985 and is packed every night. On about the third night into this thing, during the
first set, I look down front at a reserved table and
there's DJ Fontana. This was not unusual really, cause
he came out a lot to see his son play and would now
and then do a song with us. A few minutes later in walks
Conway Twitty who sits at the same reserved table.
So now, here is a fair amount of history sitting there
that goes back 30 years or so to the very start of the
American musical revolution. This is getting kinda
interesting. On the break we ask DJ and Conway each
if they would like to get up and do a number and both
decline saying that they were just here to relax and
support their respective offspring. They were talking
about the old days and having a good time and I was
soaking it up. During the second set, I just happened to
glance to my left, and over in a doorway area that led
to the kitchen, I spied a waxy looking very pale white
figure surrounded by men with a lot of flashy jewelry.
Now it’s getting really interesting up in here.
Jerry Lee had just gotten out of the hospital recently.
He had had some major stomach ulcer problems but
was here to hang out with his old buddies Conway and
DJ. It was too much to hope that he would feel like
or even want to do a song with little old us. But we
might as well ask cause, I mean, the worst that could
happen is he might shoot somebody. It seemed like
a worthwhile risk at the time. So through the proper
channels (band to Kathy, Kathy to Conway, Conway
to Jerry Lee’s manager, Jerry Lee’s manager to Jerry
Lee) he is indeed asked and to everyone’s utter and
complete shock he says yes. So now it’s almost time
for the next set and all that’s left to do is confer with
Mr. Lewis on what musical selection he would like
to favor us all with.
It went EXACTLY like this:
US: Uh, gosh Mr. Lewis, this is such an honor sir. What
song do you want to do?
JLL: First things first boys. What kind of piano do
you have up there for me to play?
US: Uh… it’s a Yamaha electric Mr. Lewis. It’s
not an acoustic like you’re used to, but it is real good.
JLL: Yamaha??? That’s made by them Japanese,
ain’t it boys??
US: Yes Mr. Lewis it is.
JLL: Well, I ain’t-a-gonna play that damn thing cause
I remember what they did at Pearl Harbor and I just
ain’t –a-gonna play it.
So….. For the next 4-5 minutes we have to update him
on the improved American/Japanese relations that have
come about since the end of World War II. I mean, it
had only been 40 years exactly and he’s been busy and
such, so I guess he just kinda hadn’t been watching the
news or something. Finally he says okay and doesn’t
feel too treasonous and we all take to the extremely
unglamorous Ramada North stage. Having just gotten
out of major surgery, he was moving slow. I would
also suspect there was medication involved in the
healing process. He never told us what song he wanted
to do so we knew that it was just gonna be a white
knuckle ride on the Jerry Lee express. He started out
vamping on a chord, just searching for his inner groove.
For all I know, this might have been the first time he had
sat at a keyboard since surgery. He then begins singing
“Rockin’ My Life Away”. Okay, cool. This shouldn’t be
too hard to follow, especially at this extremely relaxed
tempo. But then, over the next 30 seconds or so a real
transformation started taking place. His face stayed as
stark, pale and waxy as before but his arms started to get
really animated. Like all of the sudden somebody turned
on the blood supply and now it was coursing through
his veins. Within a minute or so the tempo started rising
dramatically until we were a full 10bpm faster than when
we started. By the 2nd chorus his arms were pumping up
and down like a Tennessee walking horse and his face
STILL hadn’t changed from his dead eyed Sphinx like
stare. It was the eeriest combination of sheer adrenalin
and embalming fluid that I have ever seen. The song
ends after some spirited soloing and we can’t tell if
he’s happy or not cause his face STILL hasn’t moved.
But before the applause dies down he’s off and running
on another number. This time it’s Chuck Berry’s song
“Little Queenie”. So now it’s clear that he’s into it and
we (the band) loosen up and go into overdrive. Same
as the first song, this one starts at one tempo and by
the second chorus we are carrying the US mail Pony
Express style. Now we are at the solo and I’m just
flailing out chords, cause you KNOW he’s gonna take
the solo. But to my amazement he motions for ME to
take the solo. Ho-ly crap! So I grab ahold of that one
famous Chuck Berry lick (that launched a million bands)
and I beat that thing into bloody submission for 12 bars.
I whipped it like it had insulted my mama. Possibly the
most passionate, “in the zone” 40 seconds of my musical
life. It must have been good cause now he’s waving me
on to go around again. Now I’m panicked cause I’ve used
up my lick. But it didn’t matter cause he started wearing
out the high end of the piano. Another chorus and it’s over
almost as quick as it started. Then it was as if the blood
supply got turned off as soon as he stepped away from
the piano. He got frail again and had to be helped down
from the bandstand. But for 8 minutes at that plastic
Japanese keyboard, mild mannered Clark Kent went into
that phone booth and came out as Superman. He then sat
at that front table with his old buddies and listened to a
couple more of our songs before disappearing into
the night with the men that were wearing lots of flashy
copyright 2011 scottbaggett
I have no photographic evidence of this night but I
found this pic from 6 months later, right after getting
out of the hospital from another major stomach