'What a sense of humor he had': Family and fans bid final farewell to rock 'n' roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis
MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE: Jerry Lee Lewis' memorial services were held in his hometown in north Louisiana on November 5, Saturday, as family, friends, and admirers gathered to bid their final goodbyes to the pioneer of rock 'n' roll. Lewis, 87, died on October 28 at his house in Mississippi, south of Memphis, Tennessee after a long battle with pneumonia, reported Dailymail.
The memorial service was held in Young's Funeral Home in Ferriday where Lewis grew up. More than 100 mourners were present for the service, reported Daily Mail. TV evangelist Jimmy Swaggart said that he "lost the brother I never had." "We learned to play piano together," Swaggart recalled. "I had to make myself realize that he was no longer here." Earlier this year, Swaggart and Lewis released the gospel album 'The Boys From Ferriday', and Swaggart admitted that he wasn't sure if Lewis would be able to make it through the entire recording session.
"He was very weak," Swaggart said. "I remember saying, 'Lord, I don't know if he can do it or not.' But when Jerry Lee sat at that piano, you know he was limited to what he could play because of the stroke, but when the engineer said the red light is on and when he opened his mouth," he said, "Jesus, hold my hand, I need thee every hour. Hear my feeble plea, oh Lord, look down on me." He further added, "He was one of the greatest entertainers who ever lived." Two of the album's (The Boys From Ferriday) songs, 'In the Garden' and 'The Old Rugged Cross', were performed during the service. Audience members could be seen singing along with Lewis as the tapes played while wiping their eyes.
Donnie Swaggart, the son of Swaggart, recalled Lewis' humorous side during a meeting with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, a country rock band in Memphis. He said "Lewis and his father were walking toward the exit of the stadium when band members entered. As they neared Lewis, one asked, "Is that who I think it is? Is that Jerry Lee Lewis?" As Lewis passed, one of the men asked, "Are you Jerry Lee Lewis?" Lewis stopped and looked each of them up and down and said, "Boys, Killer's my name and music's my thing." And then he walked out." Hearing that, the guys stood there in awe, he added. "What a sense of humor he had," he said as the audience laughed.
Lewis' death took Jerry Philips, son of Sun Studio founder Sam Phillips, back to those days when they use to reportedly hang out in his house and played piano together. “JLL was as big a star as anyone on the planet, and I said yesterday, one of the greatest talents in music has left the planet and earth won’t be the same,” Phillips said. He added and said that Lewis is worthy of celebrating. “He’s just been a great friend, a great person to know. I’m proud to say I’ve known him that long. He was always a wonderful person,” Phillips said.
The same can be said about the line of fans, music enthusiasts, impersonators, and close friends that gathered at the funeral home on Thursday. Lewis was a long-time friend of musicians Richard Ray and Gene O'Neal. “We had played together for many years. He was a great guy, world-known. Just like the guy down at the gas station, good guy,” said Richard Ray. “It is amazing, it makes a smaller world. Anywhere he was known, any stage, he’s been on them all. He’s done this thing and proven to the world he’s the greatest and he was," Gene O’Neal said, as per WREG.
Lewis, who went by the moniker "The Killer," was the final living member of the generation of musicians who reportedly changed the course of music, together with Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Elvis Presley.
Lewis' body was laid inside a closed, crimson casket with a bouquet of red roses on top at the entrance of the funeral home's main parlor. In addition to images of the singer, one of which showed him slumped over and singing into a microphone, there were several funeral wreaths, one of which was shaped like a musical note, all over the walls behind and around the casket.