In February 1986, I drove to Tumwater to see Jerry Lee Lewis perform at a rodeo arena called The Trails. It all came back when news broke that he died on Friday at the age of 87.
It was one of my most memorable celebrity interviews.
Jerry Lee Lewis turned to me and said: “Is something wrong?”
Lewis: “Yes. Hahaha.”
I went to see Jerry Lee with Times photographer Alan Verner. I loved working with them on these kinds of stories. See, just a little bit.
Lewis was booked by a man who was a total novice in concert promotion, a local lounge musician who for some reason decided that his first effort at this sort of thing would make him a legend in rock and roll. Lee ordered $10,000 to $15,000 ($27,000 to $41,000 in today’s dollars) an hour for him and his musicians. You provided the piano, drums, amplifiers and lighting system.
The aspiring promoter used up all his savings and borrowed thousands more. The soundstage was built on trucks carried on the dirt floor.
Promoter Jim Manning said he didn’t care that he only sold 2,000 tickets at $12.50 apiece, but ate about $6,000.
“I’m 42. I’ve always loved his music. The first time I saw Jerry Lee playing the piano in the back of a truck in the 1958 movie High School Confidential. I still remember that. I was completely knocked out.”
The promoter arranged for a handful of media types to show up to meet his star booking.
I remember thinking Jerry Lee looked like he was drinking.
I brought my tape recorder, but Jerry Lee didn’t like it. He picked it up and looked at it for a while.
i thought he was going to hit me.
Jerry Lee then rambled a bit with comments like, “The only record I’ve ever listened to is mine. If I hear something better, I’ll listen to it.”
anyway . . . he gave a show to the crowd. The audience roared, whistled, and yelled.
Read the original story from February 28, 1986 here.