American routes interview

American routes interview

Postby bailbath » Fri Dec 23, 2016 5:25 am ... -lee-lewis

Each week, American Routes brings you Shortcuts, a sneak peek at the upcoming show. This week, it’s Rock and Soul from Memphis to Muscle Shoals. Here’s host Nick Spitzer with Sun Records rockabilly piano man, Jerry Lee Lewis.

Jerry Lee Lewis

NS: Jerry Lee Lewis was the first interview I ever did, back in college radio, and I’ve talked to him several since in the 45 years since. And it’s always memorable. About 15 years ago, American Routes went to his ranch near Memphis for his 64th birthday celebration.

The next day, in the early afternoon, a just-awakened jerry lee kindly came to the screen door of the kitchen in his robe and glasses, barefoot with Chihuahuas nipping at his heels.

NS: Hey there Mr. Lewis, how ya doin?

JLL: Excuse me, I just got - uh, woke up.

NS: Well, a man needs his rest.

NS: Well jerry lee, I just wanted to ask you, what does it take to make great rock and roll?

JLL: It takes a real great God-given talent to make a real rock and roll singer, or piano player, guitar player, whatever you might be. ‘Cause I play all instruments. But piano is my instrument.

NS: Beyond your God-given talent, you also did some serious learning it sounds like. I know you learned something from the blues, and from gospel music as well.

JLL: Oh, the old colored people around Faraday, picking the blues on the guitar, outside on the streets, on the corners, by the picture show, places like that, I used to hear 'em there and I really liked it. They called it blues, they called it boogie-woogie, then they changed the name to rock and roll. So, I don't know, mine’s a little bit different I think.

NS Well, you kind of changed the name of it to rock and roll, too I think.

JLL: Yeah, I think so, yeah.

NS You put your signature on that keyboard. Why do you think that among rockabilly musicians there’s really only one great known piano player like yourself?

JLL: Well, cause there just wasn’t any others that could cut it, I don't guess.

NS: Now we’re from New Orleans, we know you have some affection for New Orleans given that it’s the great old city from your home state.

JLL: Yeah I’ve always wanted to live in New Orleans.

NS: Never made it down there to live?

JLL: Not to live, I often thought of it. Still thinking about it! Well I even hitchhiked down to New Orleans, I was trying to get a record out, I was about 13, 14 years old. Scared my momma and daddy to death. But I gave up on that trip and I come on back to Faraday, and then I come to Memphis when I was 20 years old, and then I got started with Sam Phillips. Sun Records.

NS: Looking back on your life in rock and roll, blues, country music- all the things, your ups your downs, would you ever try to do anything different?

JLL: No, not a thing…well maybe a few things. In a little bit different way, I don’t know. I would do some heavy thinking on that.

NS: You took rock and roll from the middle of the century in America. We’ve got another century coming. Do you think rock and roll has a future?

JLL Oh, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. I don't think rock and roll will die, if it does, I’d like to see what they’re gonna replace it with.

NS: You have fans in country music, who sometimes, they didn’t like the rock as much. On the other side of the life here, you’ve got some rock and roll fans who never quite understood you were a country boy to begin with.

JLL Yeah, well I’m a country boy it’s true, but I never was a country boy. Me, I was kind of a country/city boy. I always wanted to be in the city, I never liked the country. I never liked farming. My daddy, he worshiped farming. And that was something I knew was not my talent.

NS: Well you can raise cotton or your can raise a ruckus.

JLL: I can raise both

NS: Whoops, sorry, let’s make sure the kitty cats stay in.

JLL: Don’t want the big dogs to get it. (Yells aside) Hey, you’re just getting here!

NS: Lemme just say happy birthday, I know you’ve got a party going on this weekend.

JLL: Yeah, we’ve got a party going on, started yesterday, yeah we’re having it out at Sam’s Town at the Casino, we’re having a party out there tonight for all the paying members and people.

NS: 39 and holding?

JLL: 59 and scheming, 64 and dreaming.

NS: Jerry Lee Lewis, I want to thank you for being here with us on American Routes.

JLL It’s my pleasure young man, good to see you again.

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