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Where: Memphis, Tennesee (Beale Street Music Festival)
When: April 30, 2005
Written by: Lacy Jae

 Well, it finally happened. I had the privilege of seeing Jerry Lee Lewis LIVE for the first time. For years now, I have wish that I could have the chance to see him, but I never had the chance until Saturday.

My boyfriend Luke and I live about two hours from Memphis and had tickets to "Memphis in, I mean May" since they went on sale. We arrived at the gate line at 11:30 a.m. where the crowd was already forming although the gates didn't open until 1:00 p.m. I had the notion of trying to sneak a camera in, so we bought two cheap disposable ones, but when we arrived, the dumpsters and trash cans looked awfully intimidating and I thought "Man they are serious," so we threw them away. They did pat me down, but let Luke through. He could have snuck it in. They must have just done this in the beginning because during the show, a lot of people had cameras! Ah, well....

Jerry Lee Lewis in Memphis
Picture: Deanna

Luke and I made it to the stage through all the mud and mess and waited for Jerry's show which wasn't until 3:45. We had great seats--well standing spots, rather. Front row. Perfect for pictures. We were but just a few feet from the stage—and Jerry. The first group, which had nearly 15 band members didn't draw very many—not as many as Jerry did of course. It was all I could do to stand through the first band. But we toughed it. About 15 minutes before the act finished, those of us on the front row noticed several vehicles drive to the side of the stage. One was a long black older type "limo" style car. Luke mentioned later that as soon as the cars arrived that's when the excitement began mounting. And, boy was he right!

After the first band wrapped up and had their instruments off the stage, it was then that Buck Hutcheson, Kenny Lovelace and B.B. Cunningham came out. The crowd starting getting excited, and more and more of an audience started arriving. One of the backup singers to the band before Jerry walked out on stage and practically dropped her jaw when she saw the number of people out in the audience. I overheard someone in the crowd say indirectly, something like, "Yeah, now you can see what a real crowd looks like." I was thinking the same thing. We talked with other fans around us. One woman had driven 35 hours from California.

Kenny opened the show and was about to introduce the rest of the band, when George Klein, Memphis DJ, with a career that spans from the 1950s, came out onto the stage and said, "He's ready to go on," and proceeded to introduce Jerry.

****Note: there might be a few discrepancies in the order of the songs he performed and some of the things he said word-for-word. I tried remembering EVERYTHING, but I was so overwhelmed that it is hard for me to remember everything. If I do get anything wrong, hopefully someone else who was there can fill in or clear up what I might have gotten wrong.
Jerry appeared on stage looking great! He wore his eyeglasses, black blue jeans, his black leather coat and black paten-leather, shiny boots. He sat his Coca-Cola can on the soundboard part of the grand piano. He then sat down and began playing "Roll Over Beethoven." When he finished he talked with the audience and said that he was dressed prepared for rain because last year it rained tremendously. "It doesn't look like it's going to rain today," he said. He spoke of Chuck Berry and his rendition of "Roll Over Beethoven" and said that he thought Chuck did a good job on it.

As soon as he walked on stage, my tears began to fall. There he was, the Killer. I was going to see him--on the banks of the Mississippi River and the birthplace of Rock n' Roll. Only a few feet stood between me and a legendary founding father of Rock n’ Roll. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed and in awe.

He played "You Win Again" and started it off by saying it was on the back side of “Great Balls Of Fire” and he mentioned Hank Williams Sr. At the end of the song, he ended with: "And as Hank Williams would have said to Miss Audrey herself....on a bended knee, I'm win again."
He said that it was good to be playing in “Memphis….Arkansas…Louisiana…wherever I'm at.”
I think during either this song or another he said "Memphis, Tennessee," but then said "Louisiana that's where I'm from...."

When he performed "Rockin' My Life Away,” he credited Mack Vickery for writing it. Jerry's voice was amazing. It was as if I was listening to a live recording from 20 years ago.

"Georgia on My Mind" was done beautifully. I got giddy every time he would twinkle the keys in succession during the rides. All the while I kept thinking to myself, "wow, I'm seeing this in person." At the ending he belted out in that southern drawl of his, "....keeps that little Lady on my mindddd." Sometime during he turned to Kenny and asked if he could hear the piano. He then had it turned up. When he turned it up it made it to where it was a little hard to hear his voice, but I tried with all my might to hear everything he said. The Memphis Commercial Appeal wrote in Sunday's edition that Jerry's voice was “weak,” but I agree with Luke that it is not Jerry's voice, but rather the microphone and the volume that it was turned to was probably why it was a little hard to hear. Jerry's voice was definitely not weak.

After “Georgia on My Mind” I believe it was then that Jerry said he performed it at a contest when he was "12 or 13, or something,” and didn't win but then he went to Monroe, La and won $10 and how that was "a lot of money then...believe you me. I was happy to get it." He then said something to the effect that this was before he got married, and "we won't get into all that," as the crowd chuckled.

He did "Somewhere over the Rainbow," saying he had a request for it. He later joked saying that Kenny always had requests in his head and would shoot them out at him, never giving him (Jerry) a chance, haha...something like that. It was funny.

He performed the song "Before the Night is Over." He even mentioned it was to be on the new album. WOW, I must say this is great! It was pumping and rocking and I hope that it goes on radio, because radio darn well needs it! Again, Jerry's voice was so strong and wonderful. Because the song talks about how at the end of the night he guarantees that the woman he speaks of in the song, will be in love with him; Jerry later joked and said basically that he didn't carry-on as much as he used to when he was younger (I suppose as in "chasing women"). He jokingly said, he didn't do much of that anymore, "I stay at home and watch Gunsmoke," he said. The crowd laughed. His sense of humor was shining!

Sometime during the show, he asked the audience if they saw the white stuff that was falling through the air like he did. (It looked almost like feathers). He said that one got in his mouth and then pointed to his throat and said “it's either here or here,” and said something like: "anyways I’m sure it’ll l get through by the time I make it home."

Various happenings throughout the show:

**He mentioned to someone in the audience why they weren't smiling. He was even acting a little flirtatious towards a woman in the audience.

**He ran his fingers through his hair at one point which made me giggle.

**He thought about taking off the lid that covers the keys but mentioned that it looked like it was a brand new piano and left it alone. Although we know that he would have done so if he had a strong enough notion. He did pull at it though.

**He mentioned how at last year's "Memphis in May" it rained so badly that he couldn't see his hand in front of his face, but the crowd didn't leave and he surely wasn't going to leave. He was going to give them what they came to see.

He performed "Chantilly Lace." I about fell off my rocker as he opened it up with that famous phone line conversation we all know and love.....OMG!! It was like the 1950s all over again! "This is the Killer speaking....." Will I what....can I never know.....I might." OMG! I was such a puddle! During his ride he was moving his arms/fists from side to side and from back to front...really getting into it, and during it he said, "nekkid, nekkid, nekkid" I've heard this before on a recording but I haven't figured if he is saying "naked" or "neckin." Afterwards, he talked, I think of the Big Bopper, and recited a few lines from the song and imitated the way J.P. Richardson had sung it in a suave sort of way. I, I could be wrong. It was either the Big Bopper he was speaking of or himself when he was younger. He also mentioned that he had forgotten a verse and that once that happens the song is over. At times when he spoke, it was quiet and hard to hear, not to mention the fact that some woman four rows back was hollering "Uncle Jerry....Uncle Jerry!!" That was annoying needless to say. So was the guy who had the whistle and who kept yelling "Buck" before the show.

"Sweet Little 16" was amazing. Flashback to the 1950s happened once again! :o) He was doing all sorts of hand motions like pointing to his pocket when saying "her wallet's filled with pictures...;" When singing she'll grow up tomorrow, he raised his right hand in a way of showing how she was growing up; and when he said “she'll head it back to class again,” he pointed in the opposite direction over his shoulder. And, oh lordy!, I loved how he said "tight dresses and lipstick."

He even thought about taking off his jacket as his hands reached for the buttons, but didn't because it was later he said it was cold. He also talked of his age saying that he was 53....then 65...then finally settling on 69 years old, haha.

He did "Don’t Put No Headstone on My Grave." When he keyed it up, I noticed that Kenny was surprised but grinned at the song choice. This was awesome! He even did the up tempo part of it. Again--FABULOUS!

He did "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" and oh lordy was the crowd shaking!!! From the teenagers of the 1950s, to the teens of today, to me and Luke—the ones who love to revert back to the day we missed—the 1950s, we all were having a blast! Jerry is incredible in this way. Rock n' Roll is incredible! Here it is 48 years after this recording and so many types of music has come and gone but Rock n' Roll is here to stay, (as I recall Jerry saying sometime during one of his 12 songs he performed). And this was true Rock n' Roll—in the truest form. In the truest beat. I was ecstatic and tried shakin' as much as I could even though the crowd was packed tighter than a can of sardines. Everyone boogied to that piano-phenom called The Killer. Images of the 1950s, Jerry and countless numbers of screaming fans from the past flashed through my head. When he sang "you can shake it one time for me...." and "shake baby shake....," I about flipped! As he raised his index finger, I shook did everyone else, I think. I was too busy obeying what he the Killer was saying! Wow! I couldn't believe I was hearing what I was—LIVE!!! This is the REAL stuff!

For his last number he did "Great Balls of Fire." He said something to the effect that every time you have a hit record you’ve gotta follow it. With that he began rocking it wide open. The audience was so enthralled! As they should be. And if they weren't, then something must have been wrong with them! I was bopping to every beat that the drums made and Luke was digging what Kenny was doing on guitar and Kenny noticed that he was and smiled at him. Kenny smiled at me when he saw that I was moving to the music. My hair was flopping everywhere and I was smiling while hooping and hollering and letting loose an occasional scream every now and then. So was everyone else! It was amazing!! Jerry was having a blast! He ended it with kicking the bench back causing it to turn over, which caused the lid to fly open. He pointed to it in double-unison as if he were shooting—or had shot it down. As if he had killed it as only the Killer could. WOW!!!!!!

Before leaving, he approached the front of the stage and bowed a few times then inertly walked off stage, leaving the crowd spellbound and wanting more. As the band continued playing, George Klein came out and tried to get Jerry to come back out by yelling "one more! Jerry Lee Lewis, one more!" After a few times he realized that this wasn't going to happen. George then talked of Jerry Lee, saying that he was was the last rock n' roll legend still standing. He made mention of Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Elvis and said of how we were lucky to have witnessed such a legend. So true!!

As Kenny, Buck and B.B. were clearing things up, B.B. kept looking at Luke from the stage as if he remembered him. Luke waved at him and B.B waved back. Luke had the privilege of performing with B.B. in 2003 along with Sonny Burgess. Luke has seen Jerry three times.

What a day! What a show! Everyone was sticking around hoping for an encore, but there was none. I stood there mesmerized soaking in what I had just witnessed, not believing it. It was magical. It was one of the most incredible 50 minutes I have ever spent! Time flew so fast!

We left the massive crowd that was still surrounding the stage. Through the crowd, the mud and the incoming line of people at the gates, Luke and I walked along the riverwalk which overlooks the Mississippi River, back to the car. The energy, even afterwards! Wow!! I'm still overwhelmed. I walked along in amazement thinking about the massive amount of people waiting to enter the festivities, all the while thinking that they had missed the REAL show.

This was such a dream come true. It is certainly something I will never forget. I never want to—the day that I saw Jerry Lee Lewis—the Killer, himself—rock that piano!

I wish I would have had that camera…



Last update: August 17, 2007
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