David Parkin on a controversial, crazy and chaotic life

FAREWELL then Jerry Lee Lewis.

To call the ‘Great Balls of Fire’ singer a hellraiser doesn’t really do him justice.

His life was chaotic, cruel, crazy and controversial.

But putting morals aside, Jerry Lee Lewis was my favourite star of rock n’ roll.

I loved Little Richard and Fats Domino, enjoyed Elvis and Johnny Cash, but would pick the music of Jerry Lee ahead of all of them.

I had a misspent youth.

While most teenagers in the 1980s listened to the music of Madonna, Duran Duran and Michael Jackson, I played my parents’ old rock n’ roll records and listened to retro radio shows.

And when young people were watching ‘Top Gun’, ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ and ‘The Goonies’, I was watching classic late 1940s and early 1950s film noir on grainy VHS videotapes.

Yes, you are right to conclude I was an odd child who was also fascinated with Prohibition era America and the gangsters it spawned.

My Mum rightly surmised that I was probably born about 50 years too late.

My Dad introduced me to the music of Jerry Lee Lewis.

It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, even 30 years after the man nicknamed “The Killer” first performed it.

If Jerry Lee Lewis were performing today he would be top of the list of controversial candidates to be “cancelled”, to use modern parlance.

I often wonder whether musical talent and popularity can override the noise to cancel a performer.

The BBC doesn’t play Gary Glitter or Rolf Harris songs any more, but it does play the Rolling Stones – no strangers to scandal and Bill Wyman had a relationship with the 13-year-old Mandy Smith.

Allegations swirl about the late Michael Jackson and his relationship with many children, but his music is still regularly played.

Jerry Lee Lewis was the original wild man of rock’n’roll.

The way he pounded a piano and whipped himself into a state close to frenzy on stage appeared pretty similar to the way he lived his life.

A BBC obituary of the Louisiana-born rocker who died last week aged 87, described his life as “a toxic cocktail of scandal, addiction and violence”.

Two of his seven wives died in suspicious circumstances; another was a 13-year-old child.

Born into the bible belt in the Deep South, he got his “Killer” nickname from his mother Mamie’s instruction to him to “Kill ‘em dead” when playing to early audiences.

Or another version is that Jerry got the name from the time he half strangled one of his high school teachers.

His brother died after being hit by a car when Jerry Lee was a child and in the early 60s, his son Steve drowned in a swimming pool while another – Jerry Lee Lewis Jr, later died in a car accident.

In 1976, Lewis shot his bass player, Butch Owens, when a pistol “accidentally” went off in his hand.

And he was arrested outside Elvis Presley’s Graceland mansion while drunk and holding a gun.

He was admitted to the Betty Ford clinic for dependency on painkillers and, in 1984, a third of his stomach was removed due to perforated ulcers.

How he outlived all his rock n’ roll contemporaries after the life he lived is hard to believe.

I thought Dennis Quaid and Winona Ryder did a great job of portraying Jerry Lee and his teenage bride Myra Gale in the 1989 film ‘Great Balls of Fire!’

Comedy great Peter Cook played a reporter who exposes the news that Jerry Lee is married to his 13-year-old second cousin.

A combination of pride, arrogance and bloody mindedness meant that the singer ignored the criticism and watched as his career went from performing for $10,000 dollars a night to barely being able to scrape a living.

I once saw a show at the Grand Theatre in Leeds called ‘The Million Dollar Quartet’ which recreated the time that Jerry Lee, Elvis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins performed a jam session together at the Sun Records studios in Memphis.

Valuing those four at a million dollars seriously undervalues them.

Of all the hits that Lewis had, my favourite song of his is an obscure number called ‘Am I To Be The One’ which I first heard on a cheap compilation of random rock n roll songs on a double cassette tape I found in a bargain bin in Woolworths.

Not even two minutes long, the song explodes from the first few notes.

Apparently it was first recorded by Jerry Lee in 1959 as a duet with Sun Records stable mate Charlie Rich but not released until over a decade later in 1970.

Rich had a big hit in 1960 with ‘Lonely Weekends’ and an even bigger one in 1973 with ‘The Most Beautiful Girl’.

You can hear ‘Am I To Be The One’ on YouTube here…

And remember Jerry Lee Lewis for his music.

Because trying to reconcile yourself with the way he lived the rest of his life is impossible.


AS well as several thousand people reading this blog on email each week, I put it on Linkedin where it gets plenty of traction as well as Facebook and Instagram.

But the social media where it gets very little reaction is Twitter.

I’m not a regular tweeter and so I’m lucky if the Tweet containing the blog gets more than a handful of likes and reactions.

When I joined former SkyBet chief executive Richard Flint and cartoonist and my former Yorkshire Post colleague Graeme “Bandy” Bandiera for a drink last Friday afternoon, Graeme – a prolific social media operator – insisted he get a photo of the three of us.

I didn’t realise until later that he’d put it on Twitter and suggested the three of us were forming a band and needed some suggestions for a name.

Cue what appeared to me to be a deluge of Tweeted replies from his army of followers.

Suggestions included: “Boys to Old Men”, “Three Pints of Lager”, “OAPs”, “Shake, Rattle and Stroll”, “The Bandidos”, “Vest Life”, “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” and “The Three Stooges”.

The one name suggestion that particularly upset me was: “The Bad Jackets”.

I thought that was cruel and unnecessary.

And a reminder why I don’t venture too far into the world of Twitter very often.


GIVEN those comments about my questionable sartorial elegance, I can reveal that I will be taking part in a fashion show next week.

And before you all take to Twitter to complain, I can confirm it will only be as the compere so you can all calm down now.

I will be introducing the Strutting For Cancer Fashion Show at the West Park Hotel in Harrogate on Thursday.

The event, which returns for the first time since the Covid pandemic, is organised by prolific charity fundraisers Jean and Alan Williams in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.

‘Strutting for Cancer’ was first launched in 2016 and the fashion show, which is supported by local retailers including Sheer Bliss Lingerie, Smithers, Prey Four, Georgies and Aurelie as well as high street retailer Marks & Spencer and Harrogate public relations firm Appeal PR – although I don’t think they’ll be modelling their new branded fleeces.

The fashion show will take place at the West Park Hotel on Thursday, November 10, from 7pm until late.

It will feature people who have been affected by cancer as well as professional models who will showcase the latest collections from the event’s sponsors.

Tickets for the event, which cost £25 and include canapés and drinks on arrival, can be purchased from West Park Hotel, Sheer Bliss, Smithers and Georgies or call 07557 196233 for more information.

The event will also include a charity auction and a raffle plus live music from Lorraine with ‘The Band Mirage’, which sounds intriguing.

And me on the mic – oh what a night!

Have a great weekend.

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