Friday Night: Jerry Lee Lewis At Nutty Jerry's
Ed. Note: A reader wrote in Wednesday informing us that the reason Mickey Gilley required assistance moving at Friday's show is because he fell down some stairs in a 2009 accident. After several months at TIRR, where U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is now, Gilley has resumed performing (though not playing piano) both at his theater in Branson, Mo., and on the road.
The Killer ain't dead. At least not yet.
Aftermath was nine years old when the movie Great Balls of Fire was released. At the end of the film, the closing title card reads "Jerry Lee Lewis is playing his heart out somewhere in America tonight."
It was a line that has stuck with us for two decades, always betraying a trickle of hope that someday we might get to see the rock and roll patriarch in person. Twenty years is a long time to wait.
Still, when we heard he was playing at a joint called Nutty Jerry's in Winnie, we hesitated. We didn't even know where Winnie was on the map. And at 75 years old, who knew what kind of product JLL could put out? For years we'd heard stories of his cantankerous persona, and last fall's disastrous webcast concert sure didn't help things.
Except that it kind of did. A few weeks ago, Chuck Berry collapsed onstage. Berry is 84 years old, and still duck-walking his way across America, but the collapse was a scare. And so the prospect of passing up what might be our last chance ever to see his colleague Lewis simply would not stand. (More on Berry, who by all accounts has fully recovered, in a minute.)
And so Aftermath did the only thing we could possibly imagine doing. We set the bar as low as it would go, and made the one-hour drive east on I-10, alone, to the rodeo barn/ABA basketball arena/concert hall named Nutty Jerry's. It was bound to be awful, but it had to be done.
When we pulled up to the building, a line of cars was creeping along the driveway, desperately looking for stray parking spots. Nearly everyone in our sight was wearing creased jeans, Carhartts, cowboys hats or something bedazzled. Surely Nutty Jerry's is the only place to be in Winnie on a Friday night. Not all of these people were here to see The Killer?
In the door, we spotted familiar faces: Honky-tonker Mike Stinson and Blues in Hi-Fi helmsman Clint Broussard. Neither had been to the concert hall before, and both has press badges, so we stuck together for the rest of the show.
It was nice to have someone to joke and people-watch with as two atrocious opening acts worked their way through Memphis standards. Maybe atrocious is too strong a word, but these were bands you'd normally see playing at the county fair or something.