THE KILLER’S FIERY PIANO
By Doc Lawrence
ATLANTA- “He’s today’s best voice for the authentic South,” says Frank Spence. That was a typical reaction to author and Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Bragg after a couple of hours at the Carter Presidential Library discussing the critically acclaimed new book, "Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story." Spence, an accomplished raconteur, is a former ranking executive with the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Falcons who knows the South well and can spot a fellow-traveler.
Showcasing his Alabama-accented natural humor to a packed house, Bragg read passages from his book which just hit The New York Times best-seller list. The haunting words belonged somewhere between William Faulkner and Larry Brown.
Bragg, once an Atlanta resident while stationed at The New York Times Atlanta bureau, related hilarious meetings with Jerry Lee Lewis, known also as “The Killer,” was pleased with the final product. “There wasn't a day when he didn't say something that made a story in the book."
Lewis, the 79-year-old “Whole Lotta Shakin’”musician, is still performing. The rock and roll pioneer who began in Memphis at Sun Studio with Elvis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins known collectively as the “Million Dollar Quartet,” has led a tumultuous life, but survived to tell his story through Bragg’s writing talent and intimate understanding of the fiery pianist from rural Louisiana.
For those who were nearly emotionally shattered by Bragg’s masterpiece, “All Over but the Shouting,” Jerry Lee’s fascinating story is just as entertaining, much like the string of classic hits since the late 1950’s. Success is juxtaposed with controversy dotted with some spicy outrage.
Bragg told his audience that “Jerry Lee is interesting.” Yes, interesting like a tornado or raging bonfire. Buy the book, fasten your seat belt and take a ride with Jerry Lee into the real South.
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