RIP Jerry Lee Lewis (1935-2022). Last of the rock’n’roll legends, The Killer might not have been the greatest of men but his musical legacy is peerless.
I saw Jerry Lee live three times and he led such a wild life that it’s no exaggeration to say I was worried each time might be the last.
The first was at the Country Music Festival that used to be held each year at Wembley. He was headlining and the auditorium began to empty as soon as he came on.
Most of the coachloads of middle-aged women from Wigan and Halifax had come to hear middle-of-the-road Nashville country and had no time for an unChristian rock’n’roller like Jerry. More fool them.
At the end I snuck backstage where there was a huge black limo in front of the big doors. After a while two enormous bodyguards in black suits came out and perched between their folded arms sat a tiny figure, feet dangling like a baby.
A tiny figure with a bottle of Jack Daniels in one hand and a cigar in the other. Spotting us in the wings, he turned and made a Churchillian V with his cigar before being borne to his limousine. I wish I had a copy of the photo my friend Ruth took.
The last time I saw him was a triple-header Legends of Rock’n’Roll show, also at Wembley, with Little Richard and Chuck Berry. He headlined and was brilliant.
In between came a very different show at the Music Machine, which was packed with psychobillies. There was danger in the air: it reminded me of the early days of punk.
Jerry Lee turned back the clock and played songs from his early rockabilly era. Including this filth.