- Paperback: 276 pages
- Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (April 22, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0802135668
- ISBN-13: 978-0802135667
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 41 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #443,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Hellfire: The Jerry Lee Lewis Story Paperback – April 22, 1998
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From the Back Cover
Born in Louisiana to a family legacy of great courage and greater madness, Jerry Lee was torn throughout his life between a harsh Pentecostal God and the Devil of alcohol, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. He began performing publicly at fourteen, and at twenty-one he recorded "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On", which propelled him to stardom. Almost immediately, news of his marriage to his thirteen-year-old cousin all but destroyed his career. Over the next twenty years, Jerry Lee, ever indomitable and ever wild, would rise again as a country star, and then lose it all again to his own inner demons.
Top customer reviews
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Ferriday is in Concordia Parish, Louisiana. Concordia, Parish is right in the heart of the Mississippi River Delta. This book gives a little history of Concordia Parish. The book covers some history, of Jerry Lee's two famous cousins, Jimmy Lee Swaggart, and Mickey Gilley, and how they are related. It covers the pentecostal movement, and the Assembly of God Church in Concordia, Parish, and how the Swaggart's really got involved in this movement. It covers Jerry Lee, Jimmy Lee, and Mickey Gilley growing up in Concordia, Parish. Also, it covers that Jerry Lee's dad Elmo, was a moonshiner, who made moonshine whiskey.
It covers how Jerry Lee and Jimmy Lee liked sneeking out at night to Hanney's Big House, a black juke joint, where they got to see many black entertainers, including a young Ray Charles, Bobby Bland, and an 18 year old B.B.King. Jimmy Lee Swaggart decided he didn't like that music, but Jerry Lee loved it. Anyway, it continues up to Jerry Lee in his late teens, playing piano, in honky tonks, in Concordia, Parish, and even in Natchez, Mississippi, across the Mississippi River from Concordia. For a while Jerry Lee, played in this real wild joint, located in a place they call "Natchez Under the Hill". This has been a wild place since before the Civil War. I've been there, there's still a honky tonk there, plus a Gambling, Mississippi River Boat Casino.
The book covers the death of Jerry Lee's brother, Elmo Jr. It covers his mon & dad, Mamie & Elmo, his sisters, Frankie Jean & Linda Gail (and Linda Gail's Rock & Roll & Country Music career). The book covers how Jerry Lee along with his dad went to Memphis to audition for Sam Phillips at Sun Records Sudio, and how Jerry Lee became famous. It covers Jerry Lee's marriages, especially to his second cousin, Myra Gail Brown, which was his longest marriage. Jerry Lee had a son from a previous marriage, named Jerry Lee Lewis, Jr. Him and Myra had a son Steve Allen Lewis, and a daughter, Phoebe. Both of Jerry Lee's sons died, and this book covers the details.
The book covers the scandal that took place on Jerry Lee's first tour of England, in 1958, when news broke out about him being married to his 13 year old cousin, Myra. It covers Jerry Lee's comebacks, his recording of the classic live album "Live at the Star Club", in Hamburg, Germany during 1964, and how in the early 60's even England welcomed him back. Also, it covers the double album "The Complete Sessions", recorded in London in 1973, with many, many European artists, including Peter Framton, and the late/great, Rory Gallager.
It covers Jerry Lee's struggle between good and evil, his struggles, his triumpts, his marriages and divorces and the details. It covers his Country Music hits, along with his Rock & Roll hits, and his Rhythm & Blues hits. It covers the Alan Freed Show, where he had to open for Chuck Berry, and he didn't want to open for anyone. So, when he was ending his part, he poured gasoline on the piano, set it on fire, and played "Great Balls of Fire". The crowd went crazy. After he left the stage, he told Chuck Berry, "Follow That!!!!," "Nobody follows the Killer". Jerry Lee and Chuck Berry eventually became good friends.
Basically, Jerry Lee has been through many up and downs. He's been through some very hard times, especially the death of his two sons & his parents, his divorces, his career problems, problems with alcohol and pills, his trouble with the law, and etc. However, he has been tough and has weathered those storms.
The book ends around the time of Elvis Presley's death in 1977. It has a sad ending, it ends where the IRS, & others are legally seizing Jerry Lee's assets, motorcyles, luxury cars, etc.
So this book only covers part of the Jerry Lee Lewis story. We know the rest, he overcame his problems, got his property back, and is still performing and recording today. His lastest album is "Mean Old Man", and it was released this year. I've been to the Jerry Lee Lewis home in Ferriday, many times, its a museam now, operated by his sister Frankie Jean and her daughter Jerry. They are very good people. I have a lot of respect for the Lewis family. Also, there is the Delta Music Museam in Ferriday, where Jerry Lee, Mickey Gilley & Jimmie Swaggart along with several other Delta Musicians, are honored. There's even a historical marker sign there.
Overall, this is a very good, very detailed book about Jerry Lee up till around 1977, and in my opinion, it is well worth the read and the price of purchase. Thanks!!!
I think much could have been done to protect Jerry from the sufferings he had to endure, including the IRS cleaning him out, and as Nick puts it, 'left him like a wolf in a burnt out woods.' Where were the accountants and the attorneys and what bar were they sitting in?
It seemed the Lewis family had one tradgety after another, as Elmo Lewis was run over by a drunk driver at the age of nine (Jerry's older brother) and later the grievious event of losing his son Steve Allen to the swimming pool. The photo of his tombstone with the little lamb atop is a heartbreaking, chilling scene, and it emitts a lonely sadness that certainly will touch even the most coldest of readers.
The story tells of all the struggles Jerry Lee had with trying do what was right, or what others 'thought' right, but in the end, he did do the right thing. He played his music. The struggles headed off the 'y' path of right and wrong toward his sheer persistance playing trashy clubs and cutting records until his big day came.
The story leaves room at the end for many questions...what became of Myra after they divorced? What happened to Jerry Lee after the night we leave this wonderful yarn, as he glazes out the window of his empty house? I think there should be a follow-up novel, because the story is not over!
This was a very interesting and entertaining read about one of century's great piano playing talents and I highly recommend it as a very gripping tale you won't want to put down, and just enough pages it can be read in 2 nights!!Loved it!