Monday, November 22, 2010

Killer in the Big House

As many concerts that I've attended over the years, the ones that made lasting impressions are a handful. In fact, some of the best musical experiences I've had weren't even concerts at all but just me being at the right place at the right time.

From a very early age, I knew I loved rhythm and blues music. I had discovered my father's 45 collection from his high-school years and that's what I listened to all the time. In fact, I didn't receive a new record until 1972 when my mother brought home "American Pie" neatly tucked in it's white sleeve protecting that brand new untarnished vinyl.

There was nothing quite like getting a brand new record. I know I sound like some old man but music is too easy to buy these days. Hopefully some of you will remember the anticipation of a new record coming out. Now it's just click and download whatever you want and as novel as that is, I think it takes the fun out of it.

Regarding one of those musical experiences that not only made an enormous impact on me but the memory will remain etched in my brain for all eternity, the year would be 1973 and I was six years of age. My mother received a phone call from her brother who was a prison guard in the Huntsville prison system. I remember seeing him at holidays from time to time as well as transporting prisoners through Kilgore while stopping to eat lunch at the Community Inn.

He called my mother to invite the entire family to see Jerry Lee Lewis perform live in an upcoming concert. And where would this concert be? Well the Huntsville prison system...of course.

I think it's safe to say that my parents might have been just a little liberal when it came to what they would expose me to. Not that Jerry Lee was questionable, although there were some that would argue that, but the idea of taking a six year old to a prison concert was a little out of the box.

So there we were. The Cleaver family showing up in one of the toughest prison systems in Texas. Surrounded by guards, we were all escorted into a large open room that had a stage. Behind me were convicts as far as the eye could see and all of them were chained leg to leg shrouded in cigarette smoke. It was a Shawshank moment for sure.

When the "Killer" walked out on stage, the whole room went into an uproar and he proceeded to tear that piano down from top to bottom. You couldn't imagine the scene if you tried and if I ever get to Heaven, I'm hoping God has it on DVD. Being a kid, you remember bits and pieces but the what pieces.

Jerry Lee hails from Ferriday, Louisiana. His parents mortgaged their farm to buy him his first piano and if you've ever seen the movie featuring Dennis Quaid, you know his influences came straight out of the juke joint across the tracks. In fact, the primary joint was called Haney's Big House. Kind of ironic that the Killer came out of the Big House...don't you think?

Here's to the Killer. Keep on thumping those keys my brother.

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